Zaharia Cusnir was the youngest child in a family with 16 children from Rosietici village, Soroca district, Moldova (back then Bessarabia). Zaharia graduated from the primary school in the neighboring village school in Rogojeni, and continued his education at the pedagogical high school in Iasi, Romania. From 1945 when the Soviet Union installed the border on the Prut river, he managed to work as a teacher for only one year, after that he was fired and went to work in the kolkhoz: removing stones, digging the frozen ground, carrying clay, breaking the walls, and feeding cows.
Zaharia learned photography from his nephew, who came from the army. His nephew was a local photographer for the village where he lived, and Zaharia became a photographer for nearby villages, namely Casunca, Rogojeni, Tsira, Ghindesti, Rosietici, and Cenusa.
He started taking photos around 1955. The members of his family (wife Daria and four children) often reproached him for taking photos of absolutely everyone, including poor people, who, according to them, couldn’t be an example to others, so they didn’t have to be photographed. However, Zaharia had the skill to capture the unique character of any person he met. Until 1970 he managed to capture scenes of the life of villagers and left almost 4000 photographic negatives, in the medium format 6×6 cm. The negatives present people’s routine and happiness, as well as their burdens. Moreover, Zaharia captures the simplicity and beauty of the flourishing village life, nature,and tradition, which are now gone.
Zaharia died in 1993, and his house remained empty, all photos remained stored in a suitcase in the attic.
In spring 2016, Victor Galusca, a student of Film Faculty from Chisinau, came to the village to shoot his diploma film, attracted by the multitude of abandoned and destroyed houses. Inside Zaharia’s house, which had no doors or windows, Victor found the negatives abandoned like thrash. He picked all of them up with the permission of Zaharia’s daughter, who lived in the village, and together with Nicolae Pojoga, his own teacher of photography, they started cleaning and indexing Zaharia Cusnir’s photo collection. Nadejda Cervinscaia joined the team, and the work on the popularisation of the archive continued, winning several European grants. The photographic archive was fully digitalised, and the team continues their work on books, exhibitions to shed light on the compelling artwork of the passionate man.
More: zaharia.md and facebook.com/cusnirzaharia