My Baia Mare: A Photo Essay by Laszlo-Tibor Olah


I was born in 1974 in Romania in a small city named Salonta, next to the Hungarian border. I lived there for the first 18 years of my life, after which I moved to Timisoara, the most multicultural city in Romania, in order to study automotive engineering. After 16 years of studying and working in Timisoara, I left for Baia Mare: a city in northwestern Romania that has served as the inspiration for my photo work.

My experience with Baia Mare started 8 years ago. They have been eight years filled with good and bad memories, but all through the lens of a camera. I first started to explore the streets thanks to my passion for photography, alongside my close friend, photographer Hajdu Tamas, who is also an “adopted” child of the city.

I was 35 when this journey started, and maybe this is the reason why I came to view Baia Mare a little bit differently to those who were born and bred there. I didn’t have many memories associated with this city. I experienced my childhood memories – of my first day of school, first kiss, and first love – elsewhere, so it was really easy to be objective with everything around me. Still, my home city and Baia Mare have a similar history, with their shared communist experiences, so they are not that different.

Back in the 17th century, Baia Mare was a really famous city for gold mining. By the 19th century, it was home to the most famous painting school in Hungary. Following the Second World War and the onset of communism, everything disappeared but the status of a mining city remained, giving it a reputation for industry and employment. A lot of people moved from the villages to work in the mines. During this period of the 20th century, many flats were built and the new citizens tried to adapt to their new lives and new conditions. Today, the mining has gone but the people remain. All the colour and mood of this city is a mixture between new and old, high class and low class, modern and obsolete. This melange of experiences shapes the variety of my photos. In that, my photos express the Baia Mare that I see.