C Fodoreanu – Ode to the Lake Sacalaia

Review by Wayne Swanson 

Think back to your childhood, and there likely is a special place in your memory. A place of play, of adventure, of wonder, of self-discovery, and perhaps even of danger. For photographic artist C Fodoreanu, Lake Sacalaia was such a place.

The deepest fresh-water lake in Transylvania, Lake Sacalaia is steeped in legend and folklore. It’s known as the Loch Ness of Transylvania, where underwater demons protect its secrets. Legend has it that the lake formed when a salt mine under a small Roman village caved in about 2000 years ago, leading to the flooding of the village. When the water is clear, it is said, you can still see the spires of the basilica, the highest point of the submerged village. Over the years, many divers have tried to reach the basilica, some of them never to return. 

Fodoreanu spent his childhood summers in a rowboat on this lake, looking down in hopes of catching a glimpse of the submerged basilica. Ode to the Lake Sacalaia is his remembrance of the place, its mysteries, and its role in his journey toward identity. The book itself is a journey from the surface of the lake to the depths. In it Fodoreanu combines photographs he made as a young boy with recently created images, “paying homage to a younger self journeying towards identity, searching for faith and ideals, reconnecting to what holds me true to myself.”

The book begins with aerial images that set the location of the lake. Then we see Fodoreanu’s childhood photos taken on the surface of the lake, now faded and distressed, combined with recent photos of human bodies fragmented by underwater light and shadows. As we dive deeper, we see a series of deep-blue-toned images of a diver descending to the depths. Finally, we see a series of grainy, indistinct images, as if we’re struggling to make out what’s at the bottom of the lake.

The journey to the bottom is enhanced by the topographical book design by Caleb Cain Marcus of Luminosity Lab. The dust cover and stiff cover behind it convey the shape and depth of the lake via three levels of die cuts mimicking its contours. Inside, the pages become thinner the deeper we dive into the lake.

The result is a dreamy revery on the memories of childhood. Fodoreanu is a pediatrician as well as a fine art photographer, so he is well-versed in the struggles children face as they seek to find their place in the world. Some manage to swim to the top, realizing their full potential, while others become lost in the depths. For Fodoreanu personally, his time on the lake was also when he was coming to question his own identity. Queer or not, Ode to the Lake Sacalaia effectively calls to mind the hopes, dreams, challenges, and discoveries of those formative years. 

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Wayne Swanson is a Contributing Editor and a San Diego-based fine art photographer and writer.

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Ode to the Lake Sacalaia, C Fodoreanu

Photographer: C Fodoreanu, born Transylvania, Romania, resides San Diego, CA, USA 

Publisher: Cornel/Henry Art (San Diego, CA, USA, copyright 2022)

Poem by C Fodoreanu, essays by Seph Rodney and Shana Nys Dambrot

Text: English

Stiffcover book with dust cover, sewn otabind with square spine,  tritone images with the middle color section printed with blue ink, 6.5 x 9.4 inches, 100 pages, 52 images, printed by Robstolk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, ISBN: 978-0-578-28372-2

Photobook designer: Caleb Cain Marcus, Luminosity Lab

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Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are copyright of the authors and publishers.

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