Old Customs is of the third of four books street and documentary photographer Chris Suspect is set to publish in 2020; it’s a gorgeous collection of work that stems from his time in Romania, where he’s been giving lectures and hosting photo workshops on the Black Sea for the past three years. (If you’ve been missing out on beach vibes this summer, 110% live vicariously through these striking images.)
“When I first went to Romania I was curious about the first generation of Romanians who did not have personal experience of what it was like to live under the rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Communist state. This curiosity stems from my own personal experience growing up in Moscow in the late 70s during the reign of Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. I recall how dark, bleak and miserable it was for me as a young person during that time. To be separated from this political ideology by the sliver of one generation was interesting to me so I decided to explore these ideas photographically. The book considers the idea of freedom and youth tethered to history, all in the style of a modern-day fairy tale filled with beauty, magic, myth, and mystery.”
An example of this incorporation of old and new can be seen in the photos of women with mirrors reflecting the sun into the lens of the camera; these are a reference to the legend of the Sanzienele, beautiful nymphs with magical powers who, according to Romanian mythology, like to dance naked or in white dresses near lonely cliffs, remote sea-sides, and sunny meadows. Additionally, embroidery patterns are used throughout the book to break the sequencing of the photographs; these are all derived from traditional nineteenth-century Romanian patterns, which historically acted not just as decoration, but as secret regional languages.
Scope a smattering of snaps below, which are slightly (albeit tastefully!) NSFWFH (aka not safe for work from home, in the event there are prying eyes afoot). Also, be sure to pre-order a physical copy here; the first edition has 46 full color photographs and a unique design featuring a printed translucent book jacket. (Subsequent editions will not include the book jacket.) All books purchased online are hand-numbered and signed.