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Entre Rocas y Oración

DOCUMENTED BY ISMA ORTIZ  @ismaortiz_fotos

Monje Iefimie-2.jpg

The search for transcendence

The monastic life chosen from retreat in a cave in Moldova is an astonishing tale of dedication and spirituality. In an increasingly hectic world, the monk Iefimie has chosen an existence of solitude and contemplation in the depths of nature. Over the past two decades, his life has been marked by austerity, prayer and communion with creation. This story reveals the challenges and rewards of an extraordinary life choice.

Photo part of the project; see the gallery for more info

The life of the Orthodox monks is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for anyone with an interest in what monastic life is like. In addition to the sacrifice involved, the natural beauty of the environment in which the monks live helps to convey the peace and balance they seek in their daily lives. This spiritual dedication and their rigorous daily discipline are remarkable examples of their commitment.

Morning meditation serves to start the day with tranquillity and reflection, which is part of the serenity they seek to achieve. In addition, communal chores, ranging from gardening to food preparation, highlight the importance of collaboration and humility in their daily lives.

As I have said, the environment in which they reside is also worthy of admiration. The natural beauty of the landscapes surrounding their monasteries conveys the tranquillity and peace that characterise their environment. The orthodox monks find solace and strength in nature, and this is reflected in the photographs that capture the majesty of the mountains and bodies of water that surround them.

And this is where the figure of Iefimie, an orthodox monk who has lived in a cave in Moldova since 2003, appears, a perfect example of how these men dedicate their daily lives to the faith of their religion.

Iefimie began his religious journey when he was just a child. His aunt taught him and his cousins how to pray and told them stories about the Orthodox faith. However, during his fourth year at school, his history teacher posed a question that planted seeds of doubt in his mind: "How can you prove that your God is the real one when there are so many religions and gods in the world? With this question echoing in his head, Iefimie made the decision to move away from the orthodox path and began to distrust everything his aunt taught him. This led him to cut off communication with her as he felt deceived and thought that everything she had told him was a fairy tale without any veracity.

The captivating deep, sincere and compassionate gaze, reflecting the wisdom and spiritual connection he has cultivated throughout his solitary life.

As an adult, Iefimie moved to Siberia in search of work, an adventure that led him to explore and delve into Buddhism. Eventually, however, he found that many of its teachings did not make sense to him and did not give him what he was looking for in the religion. Despite the difficulties he encountered in leaving Buddhism, he eventually managed to leave. Everything in his head in chaos, he needed to find a God who would make him understand his existence.

Meanwhile, in the next part of his life, he entered into a relationship that led him to marry and have a daughter. For a while this was his way of life, a typical family life and within the established standards. But everything changed and eventually his destiny would be different... He separated from his family that he has not heard from for years, and embarked on a spiritual path that led him back to his orthodox faith. His vision of this religion as an adult had changed, he found the sign he was waiting for and decided to enter a monastery, and within this, from the retreat in a cold cave.

Surrounded by books and a small chapel for prayer, his monastic life is remarkably simple. A cave that once housed twelve monks, but is now inhabited only by him, which is reflected in a room full of abandoned beds. It also has a natural terrace in the rock, overlooking the riverbank and making it an ideal place for meditation and contemplation. With very little natural light and supported by the glow of candles, life inside the cave is shrouded in gloom. The few windows with broken glass that the cave has are covered with plastic sheeting in an attempt to act as a wall against the cold.

With very little natural light, their life inside the cave is surrounded by gloom.

Life in the cold winters of Moldova in a place as damp as a cave high up in the mountains, is a display of utter austerity and dedication. The dampness of it penetrates their clothes, and the biting cold is present in every breath. Solitude is their constant companion, and silence reigns, interrupted only by religious chanting and the reading of sacred texts.

Despite the harsh conditions, he is able to find beauty in the simplicity of his lifestyle and communion with nature. Faith gives him the strength to withstand inclement weather and find spiritual enlightenment in austerity and retreat. For him this lifestyle is a way to find inner peace and a deeper connection with God. This project captures this spirituality in an environment where Iefimie has lived for twenty years.

The figure of Iefimie is just one example, but there are many other monks living in religious communities that can be captured on camera. If done with respect and sensitivity, documentary photography can be a way to show the world the beauty and spirituality of orthodox monastic life.



Isma Ortiz (Madrid, Spain, 1975). He is a freelance photographer who works both in Spain and in different countries around the world. His focus is mainly on people, capturing their stories and experiences in a touching and authentic way. In addition, landscapes play an essential role in his work, where loneliness stands as a central element, creating visually striking compositions.

His social commitment is evident through his collaboration with non-profit organisations and various social collectives, where he brings his artistic talent to generate a positive impact on society.

In his most recent project, he went to Morocco to document the days following the devastating earthquake that struck the region on 8 September 2023. Her work in this context helped give a voice to the lives affected and highlighted the need for support in times of crisis. (COMING SOON!)

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