I Spent a Month Living in a Romanian Sexcam Studio
Until July I shared an apartment in England with two cousins, Lorenz and Alessandro. When I moved out at short notice, I was worried that I’d left the pair in the lurch, but as it turned out my timing couldn’t have been better. “We’re moving to Romania to open a catering business,” they told me. That plan seemed a little unusual, not to mention completely economically unviable, but they assured me that they had it all worked out. They knew a guy who was already running a similar operation in Bucharest, they said.
Come September, I got a message from the cousins asking if I could help out writing up some sales copy for their business. “Sure, tell me more about it,” I wrote. “Well, it’s a secret,” replied Alessandro. It’s tricky to write about secrets, I told him, and after some coaxing he revealed, unsurprisingly, that it wasn’t really a catering business they had opened at all, but a studio full of stripping, pouting, masturbating camgirls and camboys. I told the pair that I didn’t feel comfortable writing sales copy for that kind of thing. Not to worry, they said, before inviting me out to stay with them. Which is exactly what I did at the beginning of last month.
Photos of Romanian Miners Beating Up Their Fellow Citizens
A little over 20 years ago, the people of Romania rose up against their government. Only, their uprising was a little stranger than what’s been happening in Turkey, Egypt, Brazil and southern Europe recently.
After members of the liberal opposition organized protests against the recently elected National Salvation Front—who were the first party to come to power after the revolution of 1989—the socialist government called on miners and other workers throughout Romania to quell the demonstrations because the police had failed to disperse the rioting crowds.
On June 14, 1990, around 10,000 miners armed with wooden staves and iron bars were brought into Bucharest on special trains. Once they arrived, they quickly got to beating up and eventually killing or severely wounding many of the gathered liberals, royalists, and students who had dared to speak out against their government, angry at the fact that many FSN leaders, including President Ion Iliescu, were former members of the recently ousted Romanian Communist Party.
Andrei Iliescu is a photographer who was working for Agence France-Press (AFP) during the riots that took place between June 13 and 15, 1990. This is his account of what would come to be known as the June 1990 Mineriad.
When I look at recent photographs from Tahrir Square, I can’t help but think of what happened in June 1990, in Bucharest’s University Square. I’d basically moved into the InterContinental hotel in the square so that I could be as close as possible to the protests, which began on April 22 and ended on June 15. The interest surrounding Romania during that time was huge; we were shooting pictures by the truckload and I don’t remember a day where I didn’t send at least one photo off to some newspaper around the world.
June 11, 1990 was when it began to get rowdy, but the tension didn’t reach its boiling point until a couple of days later. Until then, the police would show up in waves and the government gave the protesters an ultimatum to disperse, but it wasn’t the first one by any means, so they chose to ignore it.
Romania’s Fish Aren’t Being Asphyxiated (Just Poisoned)
Remember that time thousands of dead birds fell out of the sky above Arkansas? Well, nature is back on the warparth. In May, reports emerged of thousands of dead fish floating along the Arieş River in Romania. The explanation the local administration came up with was that the fish had died from asphyxiation, caused by the mud brought in by heavy rains in the area. However, local NGOs have good reason to suspect that it was humans who caused the calamity, not a bit of rain churning up mud at the bottom of the river.
This isn’t the first time the Arieş has suffered. There is an artificial lake in the nearby town of Valea Șesii, and many say that it is often to blame for the Arieş’s problems. Or rather, the Cuprumin Company, owner of the nearby Roşia Poieni copper mine, is to blame, as it seems to be dumping all of its waste into said lake.
In 1999, several thousand cubic meters of water and sludge containing cyanide and heavy metals were released from the Baia de Aries gold mine into the Arieș River. All the fish died and the drinking-water supply for the nearby city of Turda was disrupted. In 2004, all plant and animal life in the Arieş River mystically perished.
In 2008, millions of dead fish floated along the river for three days because Cuprumin had forgotten to charge the electric pumps that protected the area from biohazards. In 2011, a pipe broke and 100 tons of waste poured into the Curmătura River before making its way into the Arieș River. Finally, last year a few mineshafts were flooded, which caused the red water to spill into the Arieș. However, no dead fish were reported. Every year, Cuprumin receives fines from the local authorities, yet these are obviously minor compared to the damage and don’t seem to be having much, if any, effect whatsoever.
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Romanian Immigrants and Their Magnificent Mansions
Hey, British xenophobes: Ever wonder where all those Romanian immigrants who’ve been stealing your jobs have been spending your money? On the building of strange, gigantic mansions that no one lives in, and the planning of extravagant funerals back in their hometowns, apparently. Romanian photographer Petrut Calinescu hung out in the northern part of Romania for a while looking at how the culture of emigration has changed the landscape of traditional Romanian villages.
I called him up to talk about his project, Pride and Concrete.
Being Old in Romania Can Be a Lot of Fun
My friend was harping on at me the other day about how much it’s going to suck when we reach old age. “Can you imagine having to set aside 15 minutes every time you want to cross the road, or constantly have to deal with shitting yourself in public?” she asked.
I got what she meant, kind of, but she’s clearly been watching too many movies about old people that rely exclusively on tired cliches and stereotypical situations that don’t have any base in fact. My grandparents, their friends, and my great-aunts and uncles don’t tick any of those boxes, but are all perfectly capable of joking, at their own expense, about the topic of growing old.
I decided to take a series of photos to demonstrate that age really isn’t an issue, and that you can happily ride a pink bicycle in your pants or make inappropriate hand gestures, all the way into your retirement.
Partying with the Secret Police in Communist Romania
Illustration by Michael Shaeffer
Vacation options in communist Romania were pretty limited. When Labor Day, the big party holiday of the year, rolled around on May 1, many Romanians traveled to Costinesti, the only seaside resort for young people in the country. To reach it, they had to take the train to the last stop and walk another two miles, or hitch a ride on a farmer’s cart. Most of the country was poor at the time, so many travelers slept on the roofs of rented huts; the only sources of heat were campfires people made on the beach.
There were just two discos in Costinesti, and for some archaic reason, dancing was only allowed in them from 1 to 3 PM and 6 to 10 PM. Romanian beer was sold exclusively; other kinds of booze were only available at a store that catered to foreigners. And, of course, everyone was being watched all the time by government minders.
Sorin Lupascu, who DJed in Costines‚ti at the time, recalls, “You could drink until you fell on your face. The regime never messed with the parties, but the resort was filled with secret police who were scouting for new employees.” Government restrictions caused other problems too, according to Natalia, a math teacher who took teens on field trips to the beach: “The whole class could end up pregnant because condoms were illegal. At night I had to poke through bushes with a broom to stop them from having sex.”
After the fall of the Iron Curtain and ensuing revolution in 1989, young people had more options for partying. Many of them started going to Neptun, a resort town about 50 miles down the coast. Mariana, a hotel receptionist there between 1987 and 1996, described the change: “After the Revolution, people saw the first of May as a day when you could do whatever you wanted. Also, booze was on the market.” Things started to get wild: One year, Neptun’s Hotel Romanta was gutted by a massive fight among a group of friends who had rented nearly 70 percent of the rooms. Teo, a gynecologist who saw that brawl, told me, “The cops didn’t have the guts to break them up. They watched while beds, closets, and tables flew out of the windows.” The next year a confrontation between the customers of two pubs across the road from each other resulted in a brutal fight in the middle of the street that ended only when ambulances arrived.
Other destinations have also become popular in recent years, like the village of Vama Veche— where hippies laze about, ransack tents, fuck on the beach, and hit one another in the face—and Mamaia, where club kids celebrate their holiday freedom by robbing people and committing random acts of vandalism. And while these might not sound like the greatest of times, at least the secret police are nowhere to be found.
Need more partying?
Never Party with the Brick Squad
A Party’s Not a Party If You Don’t Punch a Fish
Historical Party Fouls
For the last few years, prisoners in Romania have been able to dress however they want as long as they maintain minimum standards of decency. This got our Romanian counterparts wondering: What do chicks wear when they’re surrounded by the awfulness and heartbreak of prison life? VICE Romania decided to pay a visit to the country’s only women’s prison, Târgșor, to check out the fashions behind bars.
In 2011 I travelled from Italy to Bucharest, where I spent a few weeks photographing the sewage system of Gare Du Nord (the city’s main train station) and the children who call it home.
Under the guidance of a heavily-tattooed 30-year-old man who calls himself “Bruce Lee,” they spend their days begging in the street and sniffing a toxic paint called Aurolac. They meet every afternoon in the sewer, form a circle and begin their ritual. “It makes us forget the hunger and the piercing cold for a few minutes, but then everything gets worse and you want to die. This is why a lot of us end up cutting ourselves with knives and razor blades,” explained Bruce, as he showed me his own scars.
Next to him sat Valentina, 27, who complained that the rats and the mice gnawing at her head would not let her sleep at night. Her friend Fiorentina, was 33 years old and two months pregnant. Her deformed hands are the hands of someone who was born and lives underground in conditions of excruciatingly poor hygiene, and who continuously uses drugs. Her son will almost certainly be born with physical deformities, too.
Then there was Costel. At 14 years old, he seemed to be the most pampered of the group, though his face hadn’t escaped the ravaging effects of Aurolac. He told me he liked living in the sewers, which are currently inhabited by an estimated 5,000 people.
In 2012, Europe’s biggest consumer brands are starting to invest in Bucharest, but the subterranean legacy of Ceausescu’s dictatorship continues to live its halflife in the sewers.