An intimate notebook of documentary work undertaken in Romania, exploring the country’s landscape and integral connections Romanians have with nature.
Martínez and Sáez travelled more than 6000km photographing mostly in rural areas, meeting with local people along the way. Their exploration encompasses winter through summer seasons, with the guiding theme that since the first inhabitants of Europe populated fertile Romanian lands, the spirit of Romanian society has been instinctively linked to the land.
The relationship between human beings and our natural environment has become alienated, imposed by the post-industrial society that we’ve found ourselves immersed in since the end of the last century. Yet there are still places today where, despite having suffered some of the most devastating processes of social, industrial, and political transformation, people have been able to preserve integral values and respect towards the environment while efficiently utilising the natural resources around them.
The Tree Of Life Is Eternally Green is foremost about nature; about its wild and pure state, the ways it respects and manages itself, untamed, and about the complex relationships that humans establish with it. In this context, the relationship with nature is understood as a way of life – not occasional or naive. The connections are numerous and varied, both in terms of permanence and dependence. Throughout Europe we might perceive Romania to be a more ‘Eastern’ exponent of the preservation and invigoration of natural heritage. Experiencing the country’s natural environment while absorbing different cultural aspects of its history produces a profound connection with roots, in their essence. We felt that, since the first inhabitants of Europe populated its fertile lands, the driving rhythm of Romanian society has been instinctively linked to the land – just like the roots of a tree organically find their way, entangled with other living beings. People and nature are interdependent.
To view Romania’s surface is to let oneself travel across steep mountains and leafy forests alive with history and memory that is infused with the land as roots are fused with soil. Romania’s memory is its story in the same way trees carry rings within their trunks, from their core right out to the sapwood. The story is as complex as cold Romanian winters and as shaken as spring in bloom, but also as rich in life as the country is abundant with fruits in summer.
Being in Romania, the cycle of life itself becomes a constant. There we can reconnect with our natural selves and lead a selfsufficient lifestyle without rejecting the modern world or being completely isolated from mainstream society. At the same time that shopping malls and supermarkets infiltrate the landscape around us, some people choose to heat their homes with wood, cultivate the land, fill cans with food they prepare themselves, and tend to plants they’ve personally grown from seed. For some it is the natural way of doing things, but others are establishing new principles in a movement to ‘return to the Earth’.
To look at the outward appearance of a tree, it is simply a trunk covered in bark, with extended branches adorned in leaves. This is relative to our superficial view of a country that isn’t ours, where we can’t necessarily comprehend its true values beneath the surface. Stereotypes are products of ignorance and theories, and only show an external version of reality. Our images are viewed from a singular direction, but attempt to see the essence of things in the uncomplicated gestures that make up a story both complex and simple at once.
In The Tree of Life is Eternally Green, Martinez and Saez focus on identity and history from a perspective that trancends socio political issues and dispels stereotypes associated with Romanians. Their record is seeped in the natural enviroment and celebrates Romanian people, their traditions, the untamed landscape and the country’s rich flora.
“My worthy friend, gray are all theories, and green alone Life’s golden tree.” – Mephistopheles to a curious student in Goethe’s Faust
About Pascual Martínez + Vincent Sáez
Pascual Martínez & Vincent Sáez are two Spanish photographers working together. Their focus is on human relations and the study of society through photography as a means of anthropological exploration. In 2014 they began an artistic residency in Bucharest, Romania, working on The Tree of Life is Eternally Green, and have exhibited their work in solo shows in Spain, and in Bucharest and Brasov (Romania). For this project they have been awarded grants for foreign cultural journalists by the Romanian Cultural Institute. The Tree of Life is Eternally Green was selected to exhibit at PHotoEspaña Forum of the Community of Madrid and at the PA-TA-TA Festival in Granada in 2017, and in the final selection at Barcelona International Photography Awards 2015. Pascual and Vincent studied at the School of Art in Murcia, and combine their work as photographers with teaching, designing and curating photography exhibitions. [Official Website] [Book]