The photographer Simple-T was born in 1970 and raised in Bucharest, Romania, when the nation was still under the communist control of Nicolae Ceausescu. “Traveling outside the country was strictly forbidden,” the artist recalls. “But I remember that one of my biggest desires at that time was to have the freedom to roam the world and explore new horizons outside our borders.”
As a young adult in 1989, she witnessed the lifting of those strict travel bans, and like many of her generation, she crossed those borders into what was colloquially known as “The Outside.” She moved to Germany, where she’s still based today, and she traveled the globe as often as she could, always in search of unexplored frontiers. She discovered her talent as a photographer in 2010, as she and her now-husband took regular trips to faraway places.
In 2017, Simple-T’s surreal series Playing Games, Around the World was born, merging the fantastical imaginings of her childhood and adolescence with the realities of her adult life. She visited Iceland, the United States, Jordan, and Turkey, bringing with her whimsical costumes from home.
Once on location, she stages make-believe scenes featuring fictional characters, ranging from superheroes to cheerleaders, interacting with the landscape while engaging in humorous, playful, and often nonsensical activities: sledding in salt formations, fishing in the desert, or enjoying a game of golf amid sandstone monuments.
“These little figures in the landscape include self-portraits of me and my husband, family members (my son), and also friends of ours,” Simple-T tells me. Often disguised in masks or photographed from far away, these characters are both fanciful and anonymous. They could represent anyone with a nomadic spirit or wandering imagination; put yourself in their shoes if you wish.
“What I love most are wide and open landscapes, such as Death Valley in the US or Wadi Rum in Jordan,” the photographer says. “I could stay in such places forever.” Throughout her years on the road, she’s also grown keenly aware of the dangers facing many of these natural landscapes.
Climate change threatens the flora and fauna that inhabit the mountainous areas of Wadi Rum, and in 2020, Death Valley hit 130 degrees, possibly the highest temperature on Earth since 1931. Meanwhile, the Dead Sea is dying, with some experts predicting it will dry out by 2050, and the Salton Sea is shrinking. Simple-T spent her childhood dreaming of wide, open spaces; as an adult, she hopes to help preserve them for generations to come.
Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Simple-T found herself seeking out wild places, embarking on long hikes in local forests with immediate family. She’s never taken her freedom for granted, and she never will. Someday, when the pandemic and stay-at-home orders have become a distant memory, she plans to travel to Namibia, Chile, and Japan. She tells us, “Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can see myself where I would like to be–surrounded by nature, enjoying the silence.”
All images © Simple-T