Although Romania was admitted to the European Union at the beginning of this year, it is still considered a developing country (in the middle ‘emerging markets’ category) with a GDP per capita slightly below Malaysia and slightly above Thailand.
Therefore it is not surprising to see beggars and homeless children on the streets of Romania’s cities, but what did surprise me was how well dressed this young beggar girl was. She didn’t look homeless, but she followed me around the old town of Bucharest for ages, and wouldn’t give up until I gave her some money. At one stage she saw some policemen walking towards us, and she quickly disappeared into an alley, only to return when the policemen were out of sight. She seemed very ‘experienced’ at begging for such a young age.
I gave her two 50 bani coins which she seemed happy with. I had been given some 50 bani coins by the money changer at the airport, who told me that they were equivalent to 5 lei (Romanian currency is the leu, plural lei, about 3 to the euro) but it wasn’t until I tried to spend them I realised that I had been cheated, because they were in fact only worth half a leu.
Although this child looked well dressed and well fed, many are not so fortunate.
The website of the Romanian Children’s Relief Network (www.romanianchildren.org) says this about the children for which it has been established to help: “Known as the ‘land of the orphans’, Romania has this reputation largely due to the legacy of its former ruthless dictator, Ceausescu and his wife and their pro-natalist policies. In his desire to build a large nation, Ceausescu wanted women to have at least five children. At the same time he robbed the people economically as he built his luxurious palace. Women gave birth to children they couldn't care for. Many women died in childbirth as a result of severe malnutrition and lack of medical care. Mothers abandoned babies, giving them up to government orphanages. Today, as a result of this legacy, there are thousands of abandoned and orphaned children trying desperately to survive on the streets. Many of these street children die from starvation, disease and exposure to the brutal Romanian winters”.
The background perspective distortion is due to the 12mm lens.
(Postscript: I’ve left the second last paragraph in so that you will understand the exchanges below between Dora and Flory, but as Dora rightly points out, children on the streets of Romania today can’t be directly linked to the policies of Ceausescu’s era because that ended in 1989)
Critiques | Translate
riclopes (35577) 2007-05-14 12:17
Olá David, beautiful capture of the beggar child. She seems indeed, pretty well dressed. In spite of the note I guess that the beggar 'profession' can give a good income to some families, especially from tourists. If you said that this was taken in the old neighborhood of Bairro Alto, I wouldn't be surprised ;-) The cobblestones and the graffitis on the walls...Actually, judging by the development that Portugal had in the last years, I wouldn't be surprised if Romania will get better than Portugal in the future...
Good composition. I like the distortion of the wide lens.
Iuli (838) 2007-05-14 12:57
Nice shot but I especially appreciate it as a very good report. The little angel in your shot could easily find her place in other pictures or stories much more cheerful than this one but I think you struck just the right balance in your note in order to transmit less than cheerful.
I hear for the first time the story about Ceausescu wanting women to have at least five children. I grew up under Ceausescu and I remember the families with four or more children were exceptions. I only knew of a few such cases. I should mention that historically Romanian families had lots of children, but my parents' generation - the Communist generation, if I can call it so - had only a few children. I'd say the average was about two children per family. So, if Ceausescu really wanted that, he failed miserably in his attempt.
I appreciate your attempt, though, to give a truthful, yet dramatic, image of this aspect of present day Romania.
flory (4848) 2007-05-14 13:23
said you that will write tomorrow,but like it too much..write you,already,what believe about the note..so real this image ..the beggar girl looked to your camera and followed you..for some money..unfortunately,they have this profession..and if you give her money,you encouraged that..even it's a sad image from my country,always was frankly and appreciated the same things...interesting the distortion of the wide lens.
p.s.tks,dear Ric,for your kidness words..
mihaela_hk (342) 2007-05-14 14:34
Your photo is very nice, first of all for the cute little gypsy girl, that indeed is dressed very good for e beggar-child, and also for the clean old street, excepting the graffities, but this is rarely seen in a poor sdistrict like the one I suppose it was here, where from is her.
I like very much your exhaustive notes about Romania, with very good info, here indeed mentioning that old decree is not so proper.
On the other hand, what I can tell you about the problem with street children is first of all about a not so known statistics here from some years ago that showed how in Bucharest number of associations that were founded to take care of them was about the same with number of street children, meaning the real number, not the declared one. So, you guessed well, they were thousands of associations. Actually it is always officially declared a big number, meaning something like 10 thousand of street children in Bucharest, that is incredibly huge number, maybe just for justifying activity of these so many NGO-s?! So, also on their papers these children are fed with big quatities of expensive food, but in reality is not really like that (this is especially regarding your note, I think this nice girl is raised by her parents) So, I also know authorities are not so interested to keep under control number of these children, and generally this fenomenon, maybe it can bring also some advantages for them, why not? I am sorry to say all these, I don't work in the field, but I know these from some people that really tried and still try to do some honnest work in the field.
Finally, I hope you had great time here!
oanna (1202) 2007-05-14 15:55
hi,david,very good details in your photo and i like your high POV here.about the note,my friends here said it all.i think you`ll find or already found some good aspects in romania that you`ll present us here.i don`t think begging has much to do with the economical development of the country but rather with poor mentality that eventually someone will give enough to survive,just like you did.
maybe it would have been better to try a bank to exchange money:)they are more reliable.
thea0211 (1365) 2007-05-15 3:28
well crafted composition and due to the len's distorsion you seem to be a giant :)!
i would like to make just a few observations to your note:
regarding this little girl, just as you mentioned she looks well fed and dressed but that is probably because ... she is well fed (and dressed) ... in larger cities beggery turned out to be a real industry which the authorities have a hard time controlling, but they also have a hard time controlling themselves and of course we can't deny it because it is real as you've noticed it yourself ... what happens is that more then likely her parents or someone close to her sends her out and teaches her how to spot out foreign tourists, what to do, what to say, when to run and how to behave - just as in school (and as ricardo very well observes, this can be an income for any family).
on the other hand, she can't be a result of Ceausescu's birth control politics due to the fact that she looks no more then 5 or 6 years old to me, and Ceausescu (and his politics) ended in 1989 and your picture was taken in 2007.
also the birth control politics you are talking about affected generations that were born around '67-'68 and a few years after, don't know the exact figures, if someone does - please help me out, anyhow those affected 'kids' are now more or less in their 30's or almost 40's, which i believe doesn't qualify them in the orphan and/or helpless category anymore (that is of course if they are in good health with no disabilities but ilness can happen to everyone regardless of the circumstances of his/her birth).
this is not to say that there are no beggers or poor children and people here, because there are plenty, unfortunately :( ... we hope this will improve in time, as we also hope that our politicians will wake up and care more about us, ordinary people.
anyhow, thanks for visiting, and i hope you had a great time around and you've also noticed the good parts :),
feather (51130) 2007-05-16 11:26
She looks a real little sweetie and who could resist her!? I followed with interest the threads.
The WA lens has created an interesting effect making it look as if you are about 7ft tall or standing on a box ;)The quality of the image is excellent.
pboehringer (770) 2007-05-19 1:32
David, it might really be a little bit strange to see such a well dressed and fed kid to be begging. On the other hand the surroundings looks a depressing to me. Everything is locked and with ugly grafitti. It doesn't give the impression of a wealthy , properous place. The begging attitude is well captured not as a gesture but in her eyes.
Floydian (30970) 2007-05-20 6:18
This is a very clever composition. The way captured this is really well thought and excellent executed. I love the pov from above, makes the girl very small, but the surrounding area keeps very nice in balance despite the fallen lines, but i like that. Sharpness and detail is very high...perfect.
Have a nice day, Henk
Charo (51210) 2007-05-20 7:32
Me gusta esta sencilla composición con los ojos de esa niña mirándote y esbozando una tímida sonrisa.
Excelente color y definición.
kensimage (8565) 2007-05-20 19:05
It's a tragedy when people misuse kids in this way--how can one think of teaching a child that age to run away from the police? (I recognize that in some countries, the police well earn that response, but probably not in Romania.) Anyway, I like the way you placed her low in the frame to emphasize that she was a small child down at your feet--fine composition overall. Her skirt is a great color accent.
I try in these cases to make an explicit deal for a photo in exchange for the coins, that way it's not for begging and the kid would learn that coins should be gained in return for something.
kiwi_explorer (12209) 2007-05-20 21:08
Intresting POV and write up. What sounds ironical to me is that, although there are lots of orphans there, adoption is very difficult. In my native country, I've heard stories that street begging are run by syndicates.
Anyway, well captured and presented to generate some healthy discussion. Well done!
rafid76 (0) 2007-05-21 3:29
a pretty strong statment from this beautiful young girl photographed against the graffetti behind her well done.
Rinie_Hoff (9340) 2007-05-21 17:58
Hi David, the journalist in you really woke up again, and I should take more time to read the comments as well, as this is not JUST about a photo of a beggar child, but politics are involved as wele as human motives. It's obvious that it evoked feelings, and so it should be.
I understand that because of the fisheye you look so big, but I wonder why you didn't get a lower viewpoint. Was there a reason for that? She looks lovely, BTW, holding a cap of a champagne bottle??
adores (41066) 2007-05-25 19:45
This is a great photo with the lonely little girl and all those grafitti on the walls. Very good pov. I was supposed to visit Romenia in 96 then I changed my mind but I want to go there.
Very nice shot and note!
jinju (14265) 2007-06-04 2:40
I think this is one of your better shots recently. Maybe because I always like people in my photos but I really love the girl in the foreground and the cleanliness of the background.
plimrn (21344) 2007-06-12 18:55
Actually the street looks very like the one leading to the Acropolis from the Plaka. Like Kath, I read the comments with interest. I agree with the POV that whether or not she is well-fed or not; the fact that she is working in such a demaaning occupation at such a young age IS a problem. When I visited Cabo San Lucas recently, what struck me was the fact that there were no children begging. The were playing and had little time for a tourist like me. I knew the economy was doing well in that area. HLJ, Pat
vagabondtravels (6511) 2007-06-15 8:17
Great pov. Really intereseting bg with the grafitti and the coblestone. Very sharp with good color. Welld one.
devimeuxbe (58557) 2007-06-20 23:22
I like how this little girl look lost on the pavment.
Very beautifull picture
orme (7215) 2007-07-05 8:44
Excellent point of view here, David, and an incredibly interesting note to match.
The 'little orphan' on the cobbled streets reminds me of scenes from Oliver Twist - but unfortunately, this is real and this is Europe today.
I like the 'modern' graffiti in the background - including domain name!!!
brevbrev14 (140) 2007-07-18 2:31
Hi David, i love the distortion of the wide angle here...
and your POV..
the little girl has a great expression...really natural...
great walls in background and diagonal line..
i like a lot!
ykumar (45) 2007-08-30 22:09
What a clarity and noteworthy note.
- Copyright: David Astley (banyanman) (7789)
- Genre: People
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2007-05-06
- Categories: Daily Life
- Camera: Nikon D100, Nikkor AF-S 12-24mm f/4G ED, UV
- Exposure: f/7.1, 1/180 seconds
- Photo Version: Original Version
- Date Submitted: 2007-05-14 11:25
- Favorites: 1 [view]