Photographing a Gypsy's Story
A project involving one of the most misunderstood groups of people or gypsies is challenging in its own right. Even if you happen to live in a region where they normally move about they tend to be quite private in all of their endeavors and will rarely allow an outsider to enter much less photograph them.
However, with kindness and respect as well as perhaps some form of payment this can usually be arranged.
One must approach them first and ask to be allowed to record their images, not doing so will more than likely be taken as a sign of disrespect. And not all gypsies are the same. Their customs and relationships vary from country to country.
"The Romani are an ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to the Indian Subcontinent. Romani are widely known in the English-speaking world by the exonym Gypsies(or Gipsies).
They are known collectively in the Romani language as Romane or Rromane (depending on the dialect concerned) and also as Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Roms.
Romani are widely dispersed, with their largest concentrated populations in Europe, especially the Roma of Central and Eastern Europe and Anatolia, followed by the Kale of Iberia and Southern France." Wikipedia
We are not referring to photographing them while they are in public places perhaps conducting a performance. We are talking about recording images on their own turf; where they live, how the interact with each other, how they dress and generally the theme focuses on photographing people while they are themselves instead of performers.
Barring the opportunity of locating real gypsies, then you can re-create their habits and clothing styles with costumes and props but this is almost never the same. Do this as a last resort since nothing is better than an original.
You will notice that most have a flair of personality which is very unique as well as a carefree spirit which is envied by many. These two qualities are what makes photographing them such a pleasure. Finding them and gaining their trust is the challenge.
You will probably have to take a trip to Europe and actively seek them in order to properly conduct the project and record true images.
Regardless of how you approach the shoot or how you photograph them you should attempt to show a different view of their lives.
Everyone is familiar with or have an image of how gypsies dress and everyone is aware that they mostly make a living by doing street performances in exchange for donations.
But what everyone may not be aware is that they are very religious and strong in their fervor and that they also have very strong family bonds, most treat possessions as belonging to the community, are free spirits and always find a way to make a celebration out of anything.
These are the most important factors that you should try to capture with your images. Not doing so renders your images as just part of the bunch; more of the same.
Another important factor is to try to showcase various denominations.
They may go by the different names; Gypsies (North America), Gitanos (Spain), Gitan (France) or Romani (Eastern Europe, parts of Asia and the official United Nation's name or clasification), live their lives in similar ways but each clan is distinctive and nationalistic in their ways, their beliefs and their traditions.
Representing them in their true fashion is part of what will make your images different from the usual and will help in making your images sell that much easier.
With that point made, aim to submit your photos to specialized photographic publications much like National Geographic.
Other possible venues to which to contact with your photographic gypsy project are fine art galleries, book publishers and any commercial entity which has as a goal to showcase the differences in cultures that make our planet home.
Off course always a good bet is to submit your photographs to most of the major photographic stock houses.
- Romanian Gypsies | Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert
Photographs from a Romanian roma gypsy camp, shot between 1990-2006, by Scotland-based photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert. The images featured show portraits of roma, life in the gypsy camp, and the traditions and style of these once nomadic people.