Summer With Ana

Haller Castle, Transylvania

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The setting.

If you get to visit Transylvania, you’ll find soon enough there’s no shortage of vampire stories, and, more interesting for the traveller and photographer — castles.

The castles are everywhere. Some are small, isolated from public roads, left to vanish under the ruthless action of nature; others have a luckier fate when the state intervenes and puts down some funds for restoration or preservation.

I live in Cluj-Napoca — a large city, which has benefitted throughout history from the intersection of Romanian, Hungarian and Saxon cultures. This eclectic influence extends to the architectural heritage as well, therefore providing huge visual and photographic opportunities. And so I decided to shoot this summer at Haller Castle, some 50 km away from Cluj.

The construction of Haller Castle began in the late 1700s, commissioned by János Haller, the Governor of Transylvania at the time. It was set in a baroque style, to which some regional and rococo touches have been added by the time of its completion.

Today, the castle is virtually abandoned. It’s rather impossible to get inside because the weeds and chaotic vegetation are blocking the access. Still, I managed to take some portraits of my model, Ana, at the entrance and around the main building.

A mystery roll of film.

I shot mostly digital because I had just bought a Fujifilm X100V, but as luck would have it, I had my Canon 50E in the camera bag, which I hadn’t used in months, because of the pandemic. There was already a film in the camera; I had no idea what film I had or what I had shot on it. I just noticed I had maybe twenty frames left.

As we progressed exploring the location, the weather started to change, so in the end, what had started as a Jane Austen-ish thing, changed into a darker narrative, which I captured in black and white, as seen in this series.

Mystery solved!

Upon opening the camera, I discovered that I’ve been shooting T-Max 400. I developed and scanned the film at my usual place (Grainlab Cluj ).