By Dan Tanasă
On October 3rd, 2013, TIME magazine published an article signed by Andrew Katz called “Untouched: A Portrait of Romania by Tamas Dezso”. It illustrated some pictures taken in Romania by this so-called famous Hungarian photographer.
The first picture shown is one of a dumping site near Aiud, taken in 2012. The first picture that a TIME’s reader can see about Romania is that of a dumping site. Wow! That’s original indeed! I am sure dumping sites look the same in Hungary and in many other countries from our planet. Yet TIME decided that a dumping site is easily associated with Romania so why not promote this.
The second picture shows two gypsies selling carpets in Pojorata, in Northern Romania. I wonder why did Dezso decided to photograph two gypsies from Romania and not two from Hungary? I am sure they look the same.
The slides continue, among others, with a metal scrape collector, a copper mine, some old people, poor houses, a jail cell, an abandoned mine, a sodium factory and a lonely horse. All the pictures are in grey tones, showing cold and unfriendly images.
I had mixed emotions looking at these. I was happy because I saw my home country in TIME magazine. I was sad because the editors considered that these kinds of pictures deserve some space on TIME’s web site. This was the first time I saw an article about Romania on TIME’s website, at least in the last year and a half. Being a subscriber, I was regularly receiving the print version of the magazine. In a year and a half of being a subscriber I’ve noticed Romania being mentioned only twice in the printed version: something about the street dogs and something about a Romanian gymnast that lost a gold medal because of accidental doping (one sentence in each case). I read nothing positive on my home country for a magazine I had been subscribing to for over a year and a half.
What prompted me to react this time however was not the foolish pictures that depicted sites that one can encounter anywhere else in Europe or in the World for that matter, but the following phrase, written by the author of the article, Andrew Katz:
”The former Eastern Bloc nation that won its independence in December 1989, after a deadly two-week revolution dropped the iron wall, is more associated today with striking gold-miners and a rampant stray-dog population, which authorities are attempting to bring under control”.
I was utterly aghast! What 1989 independence? Romania has been independent since the 1877-1878 War of Independence, when the two principalities, Moldova and Țara Românească that formed a Romanian state since 1859, obtained its independence from the Ottoman Empire. This information is not secret and is available on the internet for anyone to see.
The stupidity of Andrew Katz, the author of this nonsense, forced me to react by faxing a formal letter to the Managing Director of TIME magazine, as follows (I sent it on the London fax number):
Madrid, 25th of October 2013
TO: Nancy Gibbs, Managing Director, TIME Magazine
Ref: an article posted on TIME Magazines’ website
I have been a proud subscriber of TIME Magazine for over a year now and I very much enjoy reading each issue. I decided to subscribe to TIME Magazine because it brings me insights on all kinds of global issues and allows to me to become acquainted with different points of view from around the World.
However, I am writing to express my profound resentment concerning the decision of TIME Magazine to publish on the website, on 3rd of October, an article entitled “Untouched: A Portrait of Romania by Tamas Dezso”. The article is signed by Andrew Katz and illustrates pictures taken by Dezso that portray a dark, cold, black and grey, old and unpleasant Romania, which reflects an extremely insular point of view.
The only thing that Katz managed to show is that Dezso has a very good eye and is more attracted by the degradation in our lives instead of the beautiful things and picturesque landscapes that Romania has an abundance of and which will stay with you forever. Apart from other small mentions of Romania, always illustrating something negative about my home country (the scandal with the horse meat which was actually attributed to a company from France or the street dog issues), this is the first time I see TIME Magazine taking an interest in Romania. Unfortunately, Katz decided that it was best (for who?) to include some awful pictures on gypsies, some old people and some demolished buildings as being contemporary Romania. This could not be further from the truth.
What made me ultimately write this letter to you was actually a complete fabrication that Katz published in this article. Katz says “The former Eastern Bloc nation that won its independence in December 1989, after a deadly two-week revolution dropped the iron wall…”. This is such a preposterous lie. Considering that Romania obtained its independence in 1878 I am assuming that Katz is plain and simply ignorant or that he failed miserably to carry out the slightest amount of research on the internet to verify this claim.
I feel like I am paying with my own money for these types of articles that are portraying a cold, black and ugly Romania and I must say this upsets me greatly.
I am not saying that what the pictures show is not a reality in Romania but I cannot help wandering what the purpose of this is? Is this the image of Romania that TIME wants to promote? If it is, I must wonder why? If TIME wants to show Romania why not illustrate something positive and beautiful? I would be honored to show you some places and people from the real Romania if you are lacking contacts and info about this country.
For instance, last Sunday was the 8th Sunday in a row when tens of thousands of Romanians protested in the capital, all over Romania and including all over the world against a cyanide mining project that a Canadian company wants to start in Romania.
Last week, a couple of hundred of poor Romanian villagers stopped Chevron from beginning the exploration for shale gas in their small village using the mechanical fracking method, fearing that the water and the land would be contaminated.
Thank God Romania has a lot more to show to the world than appalling pictures about gypsies, some old people and some demolished buildings.
As I am very close to the social issues in Romania, and although I currently reside in Madrid, I hereby extend my offer to help any editor of TIME Magazine who wants to do a properly researched article about Romania on any topic.
Futile to say I never received an answer, despite the fact that I clearly indicated several ways in which I could be contacted. TIME magazine had no time to deal with my complaint and to correct this preposterous claim from its website.
As I was paying for these kinds of articles and TIME did not have the time to reply, not even with some simple acknowledgement from their PR department, I decided not to pay for Tamas Dezso’s frustrations or Andrew Katz’s ignorance and canceled my subscription.
PHOTO: Cover of last printed issue of TIME I received in 2013