Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin – “The Color of Hay: The Peasants of Maramures”


Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin’s photographs of the people of the Maramures region of Northern Transylvania.

Kathleen, who currently teaches photography at The New York Film Academy, has published a book of black and white and color photographs titled The Color of Hay: The Peasants of Maramures.

Here’s a bit of background on the book and Kathleen’s photographs.

Northern Transylvania is the last bastion of subsistence peasant villages in Europe. It is an area so remote that the Romans never conquered them. Yet just two decades after the fall of communism, modernity is finally overcoming their centuries old traditions. In a single generation, the villages shown here have gone from illiterate poverty to cell phone towers. Kathleen’s photographs capture both the traditions and the change of the first decade of the 21st century. Using a medium format camera with traditional film negatives, she pursues the mission of a documentary photographer by preserving a piece of fading history. Over 130 photos are displayed throughout 200 pages. Each image carries a caption, a location and a date. The book is organized into chapters on the seasons, the ceremonies, and the meaning of life. Throughout, there are essays, poems, proverbs, ghost stories and songs to add depth to the lives of these special villages.

At the turn of the millennium, for a year of days beginning in the autumn of 1999, Kathleen and her husband Henry lived in a remote village, in the Maramures region of northern Transylvania, Romania. This region is unique amongst the former Soviet Bloc for the way it has preserved its way of life. After World War II, for forty years of communist rule, a few valleys in Maramures escaped collectivized farming because of poor soil and hilly landscape. In the post cold-war period, preservation continued because of pervasive impoverishment which slows the advancement of modernity into the reaches of northern Transylvania.

But nothing will stand still forever. While the older generation still don winter footwear that pre-date the Romans, the younger generation flock to market to buy shoes bearing that ubiquitous swoosh of western manufacture.

An internationally exhibited photographer, Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin was awarded a number of grants for her work in Romania, including a Fulbright Senior Scholarship, an IREX IARO Grant (National Endowment for the Humanities) and a Houston Center for Photography Fellowship. Her images have appeared in LensWork, Rangefinder, B&W Magazine, Black + White Photography (UK) and The Times Saturday Magazine (UK). Her photographs have been show in the US and abroad and are in the permanent collections at the Museum of Photographic Art (San Diego) and the Art Museum of Western Virginia. Kathleen received her MFA in Photography from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been a freelance photographer and photo educator for 10 years.

The facts:
Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin currently teaches photography at The New York Film Academy.

The Color of Hay: The Peasants of Maramures
Photographs by Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin.
Text by H. Woods McLaughlin 204 pp.,
44 color and 94 duotone illustrations, 9”x12″

You can see more of Kathleen’s work here.

All photos: © Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.