When the Night Has Come

Romania after dark

by Petruț Călinescu

18 June 2018

Now part of west Romania, Timisoara was the first city in Europe to have electric street lights in 1884, when over 700 incandescent lamps using coal were set out over 59 kilometres of its road network. Yet this proud heritage of illumination has not been sustained, as today in Romania around 100,000 households still lack electricity. This means roughly half a million people are without light in their home. Another problem is that the country sees more than 30,000 light bulbs thrown away each year without being recycled. Such bulbs contain mercury, which means 55 kilograms of this toxic element are deposited in the ground annually.

Following an invitation from the NGO, Recolamp, I realized a portrait of Romania after dark, which is now available as a book of photographs, ‘When the Night has Come and the Land is Dark’. I have been traveling all over Romania, watching what happens after the sun goes down, seeing how the presence or absence of electric light shapes the activity and livelihoods of the people, and how access to electricity is an indication of social status. After dark, the rural areas of Romania, often the poorest in the country, recede into a silent black hole. But this is also the time when those at the seaside or in the capital prepare to go out. Entertainment illuminates their lives, but like a predator, its glow attracts consumers to spend more and more.

Opening photo: Car lights in Breb Village, Maramures county. All pictures copyright Petrut Calinescu
Project made with the support of NGO Recolamp.


Non-electrified households near Poienile de sub Munte, Maramures county


Old lady in a non-electrified house near Sighetul Marmatiei, Maramures county


Poienile de sub Munte, Maramures county


Funeral in Poienile de sub Munte. The body of a man is lit by a small bulb powered by solar panels, Maramures county


Villagers from Copaciu light fires in the village cemetery three days before the celebration of Orthodox Easter. According to popular belief, fires lit on this Thursday help the souls of the dead return to visit their homes and relatives, Giurgiu county


Rimetea, the annual celebration of the village, Alba county


Watching a rock concert in Rimetea, Alba county


Rimetea, the annual celebration of the village, Alba county


Playing the accordion is Chiril, a member of the Lipovan community of Russians who emigrated in the 18th century and settled in east Romania, Sfistofca, Tulcea county


Entertainment park at the seaside resort of Costinesti, Constanta county


Entertainment park at the seaside resort of Costinesti, Constanta county


Maria Campina, self-proclaimed Queen of the Witches, in her house in Bucharest


Birthday decorations


Rehearsals in Clejani, a village famed for its high numbers of musicians, Giurgiu county


The village of Ocland in the night, Harghita county


Bosca Teodor from the non-electrified village of Valea Marea (Sighet) speaks on the phone, Maramures county


Decorations and public lights, Vadul Izei, Maramures county


Apartment block in Drumul Taberei, Bucharest


Parents of emigrants in the house they built in their home of Negresti, Vaslui county


Gusti, a shepherd who takes care of animals belonging to the local community


Guerilla lighting, an event drawing attention to urban elements that make up a city’s identity using light and volunteers


Flower kiosk, Cluj


Spotlight festival, Bucharest


A girl with a mobile is lighting her path in the night at the seaside in Tuzla, Constanta county


Natural and artificial light in Rimetea, Alba county


A new bridge near Campina, Prahova county


Restaurant near Campina, Prahova county


Air show in Tuzla, Constanta county


Dance festival in Tuzla, Constanta county


A factory for recycling light bulbs in Buzau

Return to stories

Follow us