Romania was heavily industrialized during its 40+ years under Communism. Every town had an industrial center and people were moved all over the country to these areas to work in the mines and factories. These workers became the country’s pride, portrayed as idealized heroes.

The complexes themselves changed the rural landscape completely. During the transition from Communism to a market economy, these mono-industrial areas have been affected the most dramatically. Today, many of the country’s former industrial centers have been either closed or severely downsized, leaving whole communities jobless and adrift.

This project is a long-term study of life in these communities.

—Ioana Cîrlig

From Juror Jim Casper:

This documentary portrait presents a multifaceted view of daily life that is at once poignant, real and tangible. Each image conveys a sense of intimacy that a casual visitor might not ever experience—from young lovers finding a moment of tenderness in a beat-up carnival attraction, to the smoky light inside an old factory, to barren winter hillsides. Budding romance, resignation, grim determination: in just a handful of pictures, I feel as if I know this place well. The images tug at my emotions and stick in my memory.

—Jim Casper, Editor, LensCulture

Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2014. In total, you’ll find 31 visually inspiring works from across the world.