EuropeStoryThe New Town by Oliver Merce

"The New Town" is a district of the town Anina (Romania), one neighborhood that was built in the early 80s as a residential area for the workers of the thermoelectric power plant from Crivina.

My name is Oliver Merce and I was born 1977 and I live in Timișoara city, Romania. 2010 was the year I started to photograph consciously, and after about a year I realized what style of photography suits me best.

The direction I approached was chosen also due to the books from “Diafragma 9” collection, which were published in the same period of time.

I try to capture the moment, everything that is here and now. I am particularly attracted to portrait photography, street and documentary, all in shades of gray, considering that black and white photography is best suited to express the unique sequences from the life of characters that I meet.

Oliver Merce - New Town 01

A dog walking on the streets of the neighborhood "New Town" in Anina.
A dog walking on the streets of the neighborhood “New Town” in Anina.

In many of my photographs I present a dramatic world, slightly desperate, full of cruelty, realism and irony. I am trying however to compensate the drama of my photographs especially by heartfelt compassion and sometimes by humor.

The presented photographs are part of a wider project, still being worked on. The series is called “The New Town”.

“The New Town” is a district of the town Anina (Romania), one neighborhood that was built in the early 80s as a residential area for the workers of the thermoelectric power plant from Crivina. The construction of the power plant began in 1976. The authorities’ plan was that this power plant to operate mainly using bituminous shale extracted from the area, an idea that later proved to be unworkable in practice.

Four children playing "Cruce" (a card game) at the entrance to a building in the neighborhood "New Town" in Anina.
Four children playing “Cruce” (a card game) at the entrance to a building in the neighborhood “New Town” in Anina.

The bituminous shale had low calorific power, therefore they were burned “with the support of methane gas”. Initially, they were burnt using black oil, but this solution was abandoned quickly. The project was a total failure. The power plant was closed in 1988, and after the Revolution, the idea to make it work was completely abandoned. Currently, in the former thermoelectric power plant’s place a few ruins still exist, the plant itself was cut into pieces and sold as scrap.
Most of the workers at the power plant were forced to leave the area and many buildings of the New Town were abandoned. However, many apartments are inhabited, people trying to live a normal life. The standard of living is low, few people have a steady job, many people living on social assistance funds, on pensions of older family members, or they are helped by the relatives working abroad. Some entrepreneurs turned the land around the New Town into agricultural land, while others have built small farms for animal breeding. There are in the neighborhood small businesses, but they don’t offer enough jobs. Some of the residents have found refuge in religion, the neighborhood having a Baptist church (New Hope). [Official website]

Sebastian sit on a bench on the playground situated between blocks neighborhood "New Town" from Anina
Sebastian sit on a bench on the playground situated between blocks neighborhood “New Town” from Anina

Oliver Merce - New Town 05

Pavel (left) stand in the rain with a friend who splits logs to be used for the coming winter.
Pavel (left) stand in the rain with a friend who splits logs to be used for the coming winter.

Nicolae is tending sheep pastures around the neighborhood "New Town" in Anina
Nicolae is tending sheep pastures around the neighborhood “New Town” in Anina

For Adrian, a resident of the neighborhood "New Town", one of the sources of income consists in collecting fallen dead wood from the forest and selling it
For Adrian, a resident of the neighborhood “New Town”, one of the sources of income consists in collecting fallen dead wood from the forest and selling it

Oliver Merce - New Town 09

Ion Izvenari is preparing lunch. Currently, though not seen nor heard too well, it is a guard at a sawmill located in the neighborhood "New Town". She lives in an annex of the sawmill even if it has an apartment in a building, because not stand the noise of the block and he is kind of hard to climb up to the 3rd floor.
Ion Izvenari is preparing lunch. Currently, though not seen nor heard too well, it is a guard at a sawmill located in the neighborhood “New Town”. She lives in an annex of the sawmill
even if it has an apartment in a building, because not stand the noise of the block and he is kind of hard to climb up to the 3rd floor.

A broken aquarium sits on a tape recorder out of cervice (Ion Cojocea's house - neighborhood "New Town").
A broken aquarium sits on a tape recorder out of cervice (Ion Cojocea’s house – neighborhood “New Town”).

Ion Cojocea with his daughter and one of his grandchildren, preparing lunch in the kitchen of the apartment.
Ion Cojocea with his daughter and one of his grandchildren, preparing lunch in the kitchen of the apartment.

Ilie (left) with other members of the church "New Hope" during prayer on Sunday.
Ilie (left) with other members of the church “New Hope” during prayer on Sunday.

Two children are on the verge of kissing during Sunday School classes held in "New Hope" Baptist Church in the neighborhood "New Town" in Anina.
Two children are on the verge of kissing during Sunday School classes held in “New Hope” Baptist Church in the neighborhood “New Town” in Anina.

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