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Blue Sky : Zaharia Cușnir : The Joy of Living


The Joy of Living is an exhibition dedicated to the found works in the archive of Moldovan artist Zaharia Cușnir. On a lukewarm morning of spring 2016, a film student at University of Chisinau discovered almost 4,000 negatives in the attic of an abandoned house in the village of Roșietici, in northern Moldavia, where only a handful of elderly inhabitants have remained. These black-and-white images show Moldavian peasants between the 1950s and 1970s and set the scene for a world that has never been substantially documented, as the totalitarian Soviet regime exercised a cultural monopoly through its photographic and cinematographic propaganda tools.


Zaharia Cușnir (Moldovian, 1912-1993, he/him/his) was a school teacher, blacksmith, and photographer. Cușnir was born and lived all his life in a small village from Moldova. He witnessed both world wars. In WW2 he was enlisted by the Soviet army as a soldier, was taken prisoner by the German army in 1941 and returned home in 1944. He was a teacher in the village school in 1946. In 1947, during the famine, he had shot someone who had come to his garden to steal fruit, and spent 3 years in prison. In 1953, a relative of his showed him a camera and since then he became the first photographer in the village. He started photographing weddings, funerals and portraits of the villagers. He stopped making pictures in 1973 when another photographer came to the village. He stored the negatives in the attic of the house where they stayed for almost 50 years. In 2016, they were discovered by a student and then Zaharia Cușnir’s photos were published for the first time.


Zaharia Cușnir : The Joy of Living
December 7 – 30, 2023
Blue Sky, Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts
122 NW 8th Ave.
Portland, OR 9720

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