In the opinion of Romanian photographer Mugur Vărzariu, the worst you can do to yourself and the world is to be ignorant in the face of obvious injustice. The photos he took of the appalling conditions in which the Roma in his country have to live, reflect the enormous amount of commitment and empathy of his work. They show Baia Mare, a town in the northwest of Romania, and they are representative for many regions in Romania.

In the difficult free market after the collapse of the communist system, the country is looking for a scapegoat for all its disappointment. The unconventional lifestyle of the Roma is a welcome target for hatred and exclusion. Serious attacks on people and property have become common practice. The huts of the Roma are demolished and they are often forced to relocate to settlements without water and electricity, located in the vicinity of landfills or sewage plants. Many Roma still live in constant fear and danger.

This social reality is in stark contrast to the legal security provided by the Romanian constitution in 1991, which states that all Romanian citizens have equal rights “without any discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, sex, personal opinion, political affiliation, property or social origin”.

Curriculum Vitae: Mugur Varzariu

Mugur Varzariu

With a very successful career in strategic marketing and brand management, working for some of the most important companies in Romania, in 2010 I decided it was time for a change in order to find more than just professional accomplishments.

I chose photography and due to my ambition and dedication in less than a year my work has been internationally recognized and I became a stringer for some of the most important press agencies (Associated Press, Mediafax and IntactImages).
Photography became a new means of expressing my social activism. Therefore in my projects I approached some of the intriguing aspects of living in today’s Romania, in an attempt to raise awareness and increase social responsibility among institutions and individuals.


  • Abandon Valley – a project dedicated to the community set in place by Father Tanase in Valea Plopului to offer shelter to abandoned children and expecting mothers, single women who come in shame, fleeing!social ostracism and often violence because they are pregnant and unmarried.
  • Legal Death – a project aiming to raise awareness on the extreme danger of the so-called legal drugs;
  • Deadly Raid - I covered for Associated Press the Istanbul protests following the deadly raid which killed nine turkish citizens aboard the Gaza-bound aid flotilla;
  • Faith – a visual project on religion in Romania, aiming to emphasize the beauty and diversity of beliefs;
  • Roma Exodus – I was one of the few defending roma rights during the expulsions from France and I followed them with my camera. Some of my images opened a video interview with Mr. George Soros on the issue;
  • Survivors (jewish survivors of the Romanian pogrom), Hindu-Muslim reconciliation
  • (Ahmedabad, India) - for Le Monde des Religions
  • Back to School (a project for UNICEF on the importance of school and preventing
  • abandonment);
  • Arab Revolution (Tunisia, Syria, Egypt) - uprising in the middle east (exhibition for UNHCR);
  • Streets Shadows - prostitution in a country where prostitution is illegal...
  • The Wall - the mayor of Baia Mare, following a segregation proposal made by the former mayor, built a wall to separate the romas from the rest of the community.
  • We are no Angels - a story about a kid that ended up in youth reeducation center as a result of being left behind by his mother when she left the country in search of a better life;
  • Shock Wave - Tokyo after the nuclear event at Fukushima;
  • 50 Steps - my personal encounter with Dalai Lama
  • My Home - a story on roma people living in informal settlements facing the danger of forced evictions (Amnesty International).


  • I received the CNN iReport Award - 2010
  • I was selected by editor Daphne Angles (The New York Times) at the second edition of the Canon Editor’s Choice contest, Photojournalism section (2010) and by Alexia Singh (Solitude) in 2011
  • Assignment for: Le Monde, Amnesty International.
  • Stories published by Photo Magazine, Jurnalul National and CNN (receiving international
  • coverage).


  • June 20, 2011 - exhibition for UNHCR, marking the World Refugee Day and the 60th
  • Anniversary of UNHCR
  • September 2, 2011 - evening screening at Visa Pour l’Image (Perpignan, France) - my work on recent uprising events in Syria.
  • upcoming - IMADR (International Movement against discrimination and Racism) - exhibition marking the Human Rights Day, Tokyo - december 2011.


Renowned photographers from all over the world take part in the contest. An independent jury decides upon the winner.

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More information on the competition and the UNICEF-Photo of the Year 2011 reportages.

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