“Rusyns – Lost Homes” is an interesting project to me in a few ways. It’s a collaborative project between photographers Lucia Nimcova, Lucia Dankova, Silvia Hulajova, Ivana Lempelova, Jarek Basos, Jozef Fundak, Stevo Koco, and Roman Babjak. Make sure to click all the way to the end where there are some music samples and other media. The photos may stray too far from photojournalism for most of the people reading about it here, but the photos, and especially, the mixture of recent Photography (with a capital P) and archival photos from the various families’ collections create a compelling document of a village that might be missed through a more traditional documentary approach. While I don’t gain an understand of the people’s plight or fortune and its importance and place in the news of the day and history, etc., that I’d expect from journalism, I feel like I’ve got an idea of what these people are and were actually like.
But, what I find even more interesting, this body of work is the first time I’ve felt a personal connection to the people depicted. My family, on my mother’s side, immigrated (a hundred years or so ago) from the Carpathian Mountains in what’s now Slovakia. They were Rusyns. Now, I can’t claim to be Rusyn in any sense without telling some long stories that are only known to my immediate family through the diligence of a relative’s genealogy in the past few years. What strikes me, though, is that this is the first time I’ve seen photographs that approach a subject that reaches into to my own life and history. I’m trying to figure out what this means. In one respect, the distance I am from most subjects of photojournalism (take this year’s World Press Photo results) is part of what makes it valuable. Journalism should take the reader into a world he or she wouldn’t otherwise know. But, I imagine that distance is also part of the frustration many readers/viewers feel when presented with story after story of something horrible or wonderful in a far off land. Or maybe this is just the first time I’ve really seen what life is like among the Rusyns and I can say, “These are my people,” though I wouldn’t have even known that 5 years ago.