Roma (Gypsies)

This work is a photographic documentation of living with Roma communities in Eastern and Central Europe. As a U.S. Citizen I never had any first hand knowledge of Roma so my impressions were neither negative or positive.

I learned about the Roma when I first arrived in the Czech Republic to study at NYU Prague at the beginning of 2008. My impression of Roma was much like most Americans, strongly influenced by the romantic and magical images seen in movies of traveling vagabonds, but not rooted in any true sense of of reality. I became intrigued with the Roma, not initially for who they were as a people, but for the extreme levels of open discrimination I witnessed towards them. I was compelled to learn the truth for myself.

My experiences with Roma first in Ostrava, then in numerous locations throughout Slovakia, Serbia, and Montenegro, were positive and far different than the negative stereotypes shared by ethnic Czechs. Though language was often a barrier to communication, I networked with people who worked directly with Roma Communities. Trust in my intentions came through my sincerity and interest in learning about their culture.

My goal at first was to approach this project from a purely journalistic point of view. However, my viewpoint ended up being much more subjective. I began to connect with individuals and felt connected to their lives. This culminated in interpreting what I saw through a much more personal point of view. As an American, I felt my unique vantage point of living with the Roma, and being devoid of the prejudice many Europeans grow up with, could offer another perspective on Roma society and the challenges they face.