We are in the process of upgrading software and the SDN website will be temporarily unavailable for a few hours on Monday morning EST. Once the software is upgraded, this notice will no longer appear and the site will be back to normal. We apologize for any inconvenience.
  • Image 1 of 31

January 2017 Featured Photographer of the Month

Zona de Alb

Gilles Mercier | Romania

In 1999, far away from Tucea, the main city of the Delta of the Danube, a sinuous road keeps taking away us of any looks

In the 1950s, the Romanian authorities announced that leprosy, this “divine punishment” had been eradicated in Romania.

In actual fact, all the lepers had been sent in secrecy to Tichilesti

Officially recognised in the 1990s, but admitted nowhere, fourteen villagers still remain in this white zone, this territory of the forgotten, the “Zona de Alb”.

In 1999 ,  I took a path leading away from the main road that followed the Danube Delta. 

My first encounters with these men and women “struck by divine vengeance” were also touched by this strange feeling of timelessness.

Most of the forty residents had lived here for several decades even when their illness had been detected, contained and treated in time...

Stable but marked in the flesh, the patients have learnt to reconstruct a social life

 2016, i'm back in the area and  scientific and social progress have not followed the same path.

Healthcare, death and inactivity are daily realities but the on-site medical team though currently at a minimum constitutes their link to social life.



In near self-sufficiency, living for the most part in 10m2 dwellings whilst respecting each other’s privacy.

Despite their imposed rootlessness, they exhibit an extraordinary humanity, a humanity that persuaded me to return to them following this first encounter.

They don’t differentiate between hope, disillusion and satisfaction for this situation which is nonetheless proclaimed by various national media as being almost eradicated.

They all downplay this forced itinerary, they have violent memories of desocialisation that they associate with life on the outside.


Some know the joys of a reconstructed family life thanks to the birth of relationships that herald new beginnings outside the community.

Several maintain links to the outside world via visiting volunteers and even the rare farmer of adjoining lands who has learnt to accept their presence, their existence.


These fourteen remaining residents are intimately attached to this village that they erected and none mean to abandon this land whose future is uncertain due to budgetary restrictions and the deaths of these patients struck by “divine vengeance”.


A duty of memory, a hymn to the dignity of these people who, though silenced, live as martyrs to religious lectures.

Gilles Mercier is self-taught and committed to the medium of photography and to the Lumen Collective. Having decided upon this path, he moved to Paris to complete his formal technical training with the Iris Centre. 

A collaborator with the Explorer agency and several collectives including SyncroX, as well as foundations such as the Raoul Follereau Foundation, Gilles Mercier currently works on multiple institutional orders and as the photographic assistant to AC Barbier.

Following diverse photographic exhibitions, it was his work in reportage that directed him towards social action.

Currently director of a social housing unit, he is reinvesting in his medium.


Content loading...

Make Comment/View Comments