Capturing Transylvania through the Lens
Stephen Spinder, an American professional photographer who has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary for the last twelve years, held a discussion and book-signing event at the Coop Bookstore in Harvard Square, MA on February 9, 2009. Driven by his interest in Hungarian folk music and dancing, Spinder eventually found himself in the former-Hungarian, now-Romanian province of Transylvania, capturing the daily lives and customs of the region’s inhabitants through his photographic lens. Whereas snapshots merely record a scene, photographs seek to create a scene. Indeed, it was precisely such a secret knowledge of place – the genius loci of Roman mythology – that inspired and sustained Spinder’s artistic journey.
In his recent publication entitled “Ten Years in Transylvania,” Spinder collects images of Hungarian villages in Transylvania, home to Unitarian congregations since Francis Davíd preached there in 1566. Today, Unitarianism remains a dynamic force in the region. Inverting the popular proverb, Spinder maintains that “every story tells a picture.” Besides presenting an insider view of village life in the area, Spinder’s work raises important theological issues for Unitarian Universalists in the United States: what stories do we tell about the legacy and role of Transylvanian Unitarianism in our faith?