03 November 2016

In the Forsaken Garden Time is a Thief

03 November 2016 - Written by Gemma Padley

Andrei Nacu portrays the everyday life of his parents in Romania, offering a window into the traumatic shifts that have shaped the country’s social and political condition today.

© Andrei Nacu, from the series In the Forsaken Garden Time is a Thief

I took this photograph of my father kissing my mother in the lobby of their flat in Iasi, Romania, on a cold December evening in 2010. My father was about to go out to do some shopping, but before leaving he kissed my mother who had been upset that day.

It is from In the Forsaken Garden Time is a Thief, a series that documents a couple’s daily life in contemporary Romania as they struggle to absorb and cope with the traumatic political and social shifts of the last 50 years. Their relationship becomes a metaphor for the disillusionment and dissatisfaction that marked those decades and that many couples experienced. In a way, this image captures their whole story. After 30 years of marriage, the children have left home and there is a sense that maybe they are together out of habit more than anything else.

When I took this photograph I had been photographing my parents for several years, initially without any clear motivation or plan. Along the way I discovered this process was an important way to better understand them, as well as a way to understand myself and my background. I also realised the value that time gives to a photograph. I was trying to document their existence in a responsible and tender way, with compassion, and thinking about what these images might mean to me after a number of years.

This image portrays the daily life of my parents in an intimate manner as does the project to which it belongs. The context, the environment my parents are in, and the history they have been subjected to is really important. The challenge was to tell a story that is simultaneously personal but also relates to the wider social and political context.

My approach was to capture moments as they unfolded, naturally, without intervening or taking control of the photographic process. I didn't have any preconceived ideas about how the images should look but I recognised the most suitable images were those that aren’t very descriptive but rather allow the viewer space to find and make his or her own references and interpretations.

I don't want to present a completely pessimistic view of my parents’ lives, as I don't see it this way. It might not be very often, but they still share moments of happiness or love, and find the necessary energy and strength to enjoy life.


Andrei Nacu is a documentary photographer based between London and Iasi, Romania. Follow him on PHmuseum, Twitter, and Instagram.

Gemma Padley is a freelance writer and editor on photography, based in the UK. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Behind the Picture tells the story of a single image by a photographer from the Photographic Museum of Humanity’s online community.

Written by

Gemma Padley

Reading time

3 minutes

PhMuseum Days 2023 Open Call

Apply now for 4 Exhibitions at PhMuseum Days 2023 plus a 40-image collective installation, free applicants pass, and more

Apply now