Travel photographer Bob Krist uses his photo viewers to secure backups and gain access to locals' lives in rural Transylvania.
All images ©Bob Krist
What do a freelance travel photographer and a Transylvanian count have in common? Both are making sure that Transylvanian culture does not vanish into thin air. As Count Tibor Kálnoky preserves his family’s 13th century ancestral home seized during the communist regime, photographer Bob Krist is busy making “backups of backups of backups,” archiving his many digital photographs to document the story for future generations.
The count and photographer recently crossed paths when Krist stayed on assignment at a luxury guesthouse on Count Kálnoky’s estate in Miklosvar, Romania, a remote spot in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Miklosvar is only an hour’s drive from the tourist trap known as “Dracula’s Castle,” but this little village of 500 souls seems frozen in time.
During his many trips abroad, Krist has had a variety of interesting adventures, including being stranded on a glacier in Iceland, knighted with a cutlass during a Trinidad voodoo ceremony, and nearly run down by charging bulls in southern India.
Krist found himself on yet another adventure on the eastern edge of Transylvanian countryside. Despite the thrill of the chase, Krist admits that a travel photographer’s life has its challenges, with inevitable airport delays, lonely hotel rooms, weeks away from his family, and constant worry about how to effectively save the digital images he shoots on the road. He readily confesses that he is a “maniac” about backing up his photographs. “After years of shooting chrome, I know that the slides in my storage cabinets will be there, short of a flood or fire," he said. “But I didn’t have the same confidence when it came to digital media.”
Krist found a way to eliminate that worry so he could focus on capturing the perfect shot. He started packing Epson Multimedia Storage Viewers in his camera bag and uses them to download, store and display thousands of photos on the spot. He can also use the device as an external drive when connected to the USB 2.0 port on his laptop. When traveling to remote or hostile environments, he no longer has to bring his usual two laptops, which was a challenge at airport baggage check-in security points. “This little device, packed with 80GB of memory, gives me the assurance I need, and the ability to see what I’m doing, back up my work and just keep going,” said Krist.
After his first day wandering the streets of Miklosvar with his camera in hand, Krist followed the faithful practice of backing up his images on an Epson Multimedia Storage Viewer. Despite scrolling through idyllic shots of cows coming home and peasants drawing water from wells, Krist still had the nagging feeling that he was missing something.
“No matter how good I felt about my routine, I just wasn’t making a connection with the Hungarian-speaking inhabitants,” he said. Linguistic barriers allowed for little communication between visitors and the villagers.
The photographer had no trouble, however, relating to Count Kálnoky, a former veterinarian and ornithologist who was proud to show how he was preserving his dynasty’s home of 25 generations through responsible and eco-friendly tourism. But Krist’s story was also about many other families who live in Miklosvar, the region’s oldest documented settlement. The village is home to many descendents of the original inhabitants. Still plowing their fields with horses, these people are known as the Szeklers, an ethnic Hungarian minority to which Count Kálnoky also belongs.
“As any working travel photojournalist will tell you, access is a huge part of the equation,” said Krist. “Taking the photographs is easy for me. The real test is getting the locals to accept you, to let you into their world, and to be comfortable in front of your camera.”
Krist decided to let his own photographs do the talking through the high quality LCD on his multimedia storage viewer. He found that he could break through the language barrier by taking the storage viewer to a nearby local pub each afternoon as the farmers came home from the fields. “They crowded around the bar and thought it was fantastic to see themselves and their village on a slide show,” said Krist. “They were won over by the excitement and immediacy of the images, and by the vibrant color and rich detail that seemed to jump right off the 4-inch screen.”
From that moment on, several townspeople invited the photographer into their homes and fed him many a serving of tokan, a traditional potato and sausage stew with red Romanian wine. “The people were extraordinary, with classic peasant faces, living in a kind of Grimm’s fairy tale world that no longer even exists in Western Europe,” said Krist. As he meandered through the village during his weeklong visit, he would often pull the storage viewer out of his camera bag to share a shot he took the previous day. The long rechargeable battery life meant that he could depend on the viewer for hours at a time without worry.
It took Count Kálnoky eight years to reclaim his family’s land after collapse of the Soviet Union. With funds from his guesthouses, the count is continually at work restoring his family’s hunting manor and preserving the region’s architecture, local wildlife and environmental splendor. Krist’s images will also serve to preserve part of Miklosvar’s culture. “My experience in Miklosvar gave a whole new meaning to back up,” said Krist. The Transylvanian village will remember the American photographer who used his Epson storage viewer to reach out across a cultural divide and document their story for future generations.
Working regularly for top magazines, Bob Krist has received many awards for his work as a photographer, educator, writer and television presenter, including the prestigious Travel Photographer of the Year award from the Society of American Travel Writers.
For more information on Epson Multimedia Storage Viewers, visit www.epson.com.