by Raluca Budușan
Many of the people of Sibiu know Jeno Major from the stage of the Gong Theater, where, for more than 25 years, he has been giving life to puppets, to the joy of children. However, there are not many who know that he also has a passion that he discovered only a few years ago and that he does as well as acting. It’s photography. He is described as a solitary photographer, who loves nature and mostly photographs landscapes. Hundreds of awards, personal exhibitions, but also the reaction that people have when they see his photos certify his talent and ennoble his passion. Because Jeno Major is a passionate photographer. He sees himself in his photos, in the time of the day he takes pictures, in the thousands of miles he travels, in the patience when waiting for the right moment and that, you can see in his eyes when he talks about photography.
His photos are paintings of reality, incredible landscapes captured at the right time with the perfect click, as he himself is telling us. Jeno Major has been an actor at the Gong Theater for more than 25 years, and has been a photographer for five years, but a passionate one. His long hair and beard betray his side as an artist. He was born and lived in Sibiu without having grandparents or relatives in the countrysite. “It’s only now that I’m beginning to get to know country life through photography,” he says. Until five years ago, he did not think that he would become a photographer, on the contrary, he was a fisherman taken out in nature by his father, since childhood. “I used to be a fisherman and I often went fishing, I always liked nature. My father used to take me when I was very young. I went fishing with him and sat somewhere in the hay until he finished. I only used the camera to photograph my catches. At one point I gave up fishing and probably needed a new passion. Photography just broke out, I don’t know, from somewhere in my depths, I have no idea. And I myself wonder how it happened.
For fifty years I didn’t have anything to do with photography and suddenly I take prizes and I have my own exhibitions now “, says Jeno. The first camera was not a professional one, but one he could afford. With it he walked on the hills and in the mountains and began to take pictures. He remembers that, at one point, he reached a mountain, somewhere in Bucovina. He had no idea where he was. Another person on the mountain asked him if he was a professional photographer. He said no. Although he was looked at strangely, because only one enthusiast could be in the early hours of the morning right on the Rarău Mountains to catch the sunrise. He was mentioned for the first time the name of Sorin Onișor and was told about the workshops he did. Onisor is a Romanian photographer with a large audience, especially on social network sites, who holds various workshops on photography. His name remained imprinted in his mind, but he did not meet him until a year later, when he went to Maramureș to participate in one of his workshops. Although he befriended the photographer, it was the only seminar he attended. He preferred to be self-taught. He learned everything about photography from the internet and reading books. He says that the artist side in him also helps him, because he manages to see the beauty and potential in everything. He sees photograf frames walking on the street or by car. He sees a house, a church, a tree, a flower and he knows that one day, when the light will shine in a certain way, there he will eventualy make a beautiful photograph.
“It happened to me to go to the Fundătura Ponorului ( a place not far away from his home) and arrive in Tuscany”
Jeno Major says “Not even a day goes by, without doing something connected to photography. If the weather is bad outside and I can’t go out to take pictures, then I do editing or look for new information on the internet. My dear ones, when they call me, they don’t even ask me what I’m doing. They already know, ”says Jeno. In most cases, he does not set a destination he wants to go. He says that many times it has happened to him to go in one direction and arrive in a copletely other place. “It happened to me to go to the Fundătura Ponorului and arrive in Tuscany. I put my finger out of the window and where the wind blows, there I go. If I have a destination, it happens that I leave two days in advance “, says the photographer.
Most of Jeno’s photos are landscapes, because he loves nature. He likes lonely trees, fog, sunrises and sunsets and is always looking for or waiting for the perfect moment to press the button on the camera. He remembers how, a few days ago, he managed to catch two swans on river Olt, in a moment of closeness. “At Glâmboaca, on the Olt Valley, I’d been last week I took an extraordinary picture with two swans. I sat there for over an hour until I caught the perfect frame. I was also lucky that the wind blew and cleared the atmosphere. The mountains looked spectacular. The swans’ approach lasted only two seconds, but I managed to catch them. After that moment, they did not get closer anymore. It is very important to press the button at the right time.
He photographed the whole world, but Romania is unique
He photographed many places on the planet. Europe, he has seen almost entirely through the lens. Only in the United Kingdom and Portugal did he not arrive, otherwise he saw all of them, including the Nordic countries. He arrived in the Himalayas, in Morocco, in Nepal, in China, in India. The latter particularly impressed him with its contrasts and food. “You either fall in love with India or you never want to see it again. When I got off the plane, I was struck by the heat and the smell. A smell of spices mixed with urine. It is a country with a lot of colors and contrasts. On short distances you can see it all, from poverty to wealth and vice versa. It’s shocking, but I fell in love with India and the food there. The food on the streets, not the one from restaurants “, says Jeno.
He says that every country is beautiful in its own way and everywhere you can take spectacular photos. “You may not be able to see the beauty, but that does not mean that it does not exist.” After seeing much of this world, Jeno says that Slovenia is a country where he always returns with pleasure, a jewel of a country, but he says that Romania is unique. “There are wonderful places in our country, but beyond that, we are special because, in our country, the traditions are still preserved. Where else do you see this archaic world, peasants, hay wagons, briskets, folk costumes, bacon, churches, prayer. You don’t see that anywhere in the world. As long as we have all this, we must enjoy it. We don’t know how long these things will last”, Jeno adds.
He enthusiastically talks about Fundătura Ponorului, a fabulous area in the Șureanu Mountains, between Hațeg and Petroșani, a place he knows like the back of his hand. He knows Aunt Măriuța, Gherasim, Uncle Ion. He meets them every time he goes to the area and photographs them.
“You have to talk to people, get to know them, eat from their bacon. There are some feelings there, a connection that is created. I’m a landscape photographer. 99% of what I photograph are landscapes, but if there is a man there, I do not hesitate to say hello to him, to talk to him and if he agrees, to add him to the photo as well ”, says the photographer. But he also has a regret. “Because of us, the photographers, these places are becoming known and, unfortunately, not only people with faith and common sense go there. Let’s say that this is the negative part of posting these photos on social networking sites “.
Approximately 350 awards obtained
The value of Jeno Major’s photography has been recognized in recent years by specialists in the field. The photographer has a record of around 350 awards obtained in photography competitions both nationally and internationally. He did not write them down, although every award won is important to him. He promised to do it. His favorite photo is called “Solitude”, a photo enclosed by National Geographic. He has countless awards obtained in the country, but also internationally. Noteworthy are the awards given by the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP), but also the third place obtained at “35 awards” for black and white landscape photography. It is one of the most prestigious photography competitions in the world. His picture was selected from over a hundred thousand other photos. Jeno is currently preparing to become a member of the Photography Club “Orizont”.
“It’s incredible when it’s just me alone with nature”
Jeno captures his landscapes using a Canon 5 Dsr and some Canon lenses, like his favorite, the Canon 70-200 f / 2.8. He says, however, that the camera is not the key to a successful photo. “You can’t do anything if you don’t have talent, and you don’t get talent from any place outside. You have it iside of you. You can take whatever camera you want, if you don’t have talent you can’t see the photo. And this talent must be cultivated and developed “, says the photographer. The camera accompanies Jeno permanently. And at night, when he sleeps, he has it by his side. You never know what might happen – a storm, a lightning, you must always be prepared. He says the best times to take photos are one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. They also can be taken the rest of the day, but the pictures do not have the same charm. He says that the most intense moment is when he clicks the perfect click, and people’s reaction to his photos fills his soul with joy and gives him the strength to continue and be sure that he is doing the right thing. “It’s incredible when it’s just me with nature. It is a moment of maximum intensity. Then I see the frame and my hands are shaking, as if I’m in a fascinating thrill and I can’t grab the camera, set the lens, put the filter. I know that in 30 seconds the fog or the sun’s rays will disappear, and I have to catch it. It is a moment of adrenaline that you have to experience in order to understand it, otherwise it cannot be described in words. Then I feel really good when I see people’s reaction to my photos. I am recognized on the street or by other photographers wherever I go. It’s nice to see that people appreciate you and appreciate your work, ”says Jeno, and the twinkles in his blue eyes show his love for his passion.
Jeno Major is no stranger to exhibitions either. Over time, he had some personal exhibitions, but also together with the photographer Sorin Onișor. He is also preparing an exhibition in March, in the foyer of the Gong Theater. It will be unique because next to it will also exhibit Gilbert Platinca, a painter from Călan, who makes his paintings based on the landscapes photographed by Jeno. The photographer believes that it will be spectacular for his landscapes to be accompanied by those paintings. He has no other plans for 2020. He says it’s unpredictable, but what he knows for sure is that he will take pictures every day. “I get to take pictures every day. Many times I take a run even before the shows to take a picture or two, even if I only reach the Hârtibaciu Valley. I need to hear the click of the device, it’s what makes my day a successful one “, says Jeno Major.
Painting by Gibert PlatincaThe story of a photograph
For photography, Jeno does not take into account the time of day and night when he has to leave and never worries about the miles he has to travel. One of the events that remained in his mind happened earlier this year, when he was returning from his parents in Germany. He says that he stopped at the Dolomites, where he spent about three days at a refuge in the mountains, maybe, just maybe he will take a good photo. He didn’t catch anything interesting because of the rainy and gloomy weather. Before leaving for Romania, a friend looked at a weather report and saw that it was snowing in the Czech Republic, in Moravia. He decided to make a detour of a few hundred miles and photograph the sunrise there, although his friend told him he was crazy. He left at one o’clock at night to reach the sunrise, but, being dazed by sleep, he entered the wrong highway and instead of going to the Czech Republic he went to Hungary. He didn’t have time to return, so he decided to photograph the sunrise wherever he was at the time. According to his calculations, this should have been on the border with Romania. That’s exactly how it turned out, but when it started to light up, there was a thick fog and you could not see 50 meters in front. Jeno resigned himself to the idea that he would lose the sunrise, but something happened. The artist says that it was as if God had lifted the fog with his hand, and a ray of sunshine began to caress two trees. He pulled the car on the emergency lane, took the camera and caught the moment. He captured a sunrise frame which he added to the list of one of his most beautiful pictures.
06 February 2020
interview by Raluca Budușan