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DOCS ROOM  -  What David Sees

What David Sees

Creative documentary accompanying an exhibition and a photo book,

2015, 39 minutes, English subtitles, no trailer available.

Screener on Vimeo, ask for password. Jaapderuig[at]

Selected for:

2017  -  Museum De Domijnen Hedendaagse Kunst, Sittard

2015  -  Galerie Artemisia, Leeuwarden

          -  Naked Lunch, openbare bibliotheek, Groningen

          -  Gipsy Filmfestival, Tilburg


David Vasile, a young Romanian tinsmith, asks Dutch artist Jaap de Ruig to borrow him a photo camera to be able to capture his life in a large Roma neighborhood. Jaap considers this a good idea, because little historical footage exists of the daily life of Romanian Roma made by Roma themselves. He realizes that David can help to generate future history. The project starts well. Through crowdfunding David even receives a monthly fee. But after a while David starts sending disturbing and insulting messages. When more problems arise, Jaap decides to go to Romania to see what's going on.


The Documentary What David Sees is one of the outcomes of a photo project with the same title. The photo project was a continuation of Wisdom and Hell, another project of Jaap de Ruig (together with Art Gallery Maria Chailloux) which was presented at Art Amsterdam 2010. In a darkened room David, a young Romanian Rom, was making tin funnels. On the back wall video footage was shown of his situation at home, in a large gypsy quarter of the provincial town of Caracal.

David, who was very interested in the photographs exhibited at Art Amsterdam, asked Jaap if he could borrow a small digital photo camera. After his return to Romania he started taking pictures of everything he saw in his surroundings, as well as when he left home to sell his funnels. Nearly weekly he sent them by mail from an internet cafe.

What David Sees has social, historical and aesthetic dimensions. It is important for the Romanian Roma to capture their own existence. Photographs are a tool for historical awareness and can be a basis for self esteem. What is captured today by David may have changed radically in about twenty years.

David Vasile and Jaap de Ruig met each other in 1991, when David was nine and Jaap came to Romania as a photographer. From the moment David started to take pictures himself, Jaap guided him intensely. He selected and arranged the photos as well. The outcome was an archive of about six thousand digital images.

For a while the project went well. Through crowdfunding David even received a monthly fee. Later on problems arose, so Jaap decided to go to Romania to figure out what was going on.

What David Sees

The documentaries:

- The Source (2009)

- The Prison Village (2014)

- What David Sees (2015)

- Life After A Bicycle Accident (2017)

- De woonwagen, dat ben ik (2017)