The Roma Portraits

The Roma Portraits

Recently I’ve been revisiting some of my previous work from my multi-year project photographing in two Roma camps in Romania. I photographed in these camps from 1990, just after the fall of the Romanian dictator Ceaucescu, through to 1997. Working in black and white I tried to document the traditions, the looks and styles, the daily life and festivities of the camp inhabitants. Bit by bit as the project progressed little changes began to appear, it was obvious the Roma lifestyle was to enter a period of transition. When I returned to the camps in 2004-2006 these changes were fully apparent, gone were the tents, the horses and carts, and instead there were BMWs, and 15 room mansions built only with dreams and not architectural plans.

In 1993 and 1994, to keep things fresh for myself, I took my old Rolliecord 6×6 camera, and loads of black and white film. I shot portraits, of everyone and anyone in the camp. There were backgrounds everywhere, the canvas of tents, the mud brick walls and the haystacks. There was no shortage of backdrops and no shortage of willing participants to stand for my camera. Between us, myself and the Roma, we had a good thing going. I got to take the portraits for myself in black and white, with backdrops of my choosing, and in return I’d shoot, with colour negative film in a small compact camera, the images requested of me by my Roma friends, the images they wished of babies propped up against big pink cushions. But in the black and white images the look of the Roma at that time, the girls with coins in their hair- a style now gone, old men with fedora hats, and people cooking in their tents, is captured.


Gina, from Baltaeni camp, Romania.

Today is International Roma Day, a day to celebrate Roma culture, and also to highlight the all too often still frequent injustices held against them. Last week as I knew the Roma Day was approaching I decided to publish a little book of my Roma portraits, taken 20 years ago this year, to mark the day in some way. This book, some will call it a ‘zine, isn’t a big monograph published in the best printing houses of Italy. It isn’t a hardback break-your-coffee table type book. It isn’t a comprehensive history of the Roma in one volume.

Instead, it is a collection of my 6×6 black and white portraits, printed in an A5 sized publication, with softback cover, called ‘The Roma Portraits’. There are 94 pages, with I think 77 images, and also, just to throw into the mix, there are 3 contact sheets showing more portraits. It’s small, it’s nice quality, it’s printed in a small print run of 100. The below images come from within the book, which unfortunately I can’t collect from the printer for another day or two, but these images are from the proofs.

So, if you think you like the look of it, then it is of course available for purchase. Your support and interest is much appreciated.


UPDATE: The book is now sold out. There are currently a few on sale at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, but apart from that, that is it! Thank you for your interest though.

7 Replies to “The Roma Portraits”

  1. Brilliant idea to shoot the latter work on a Rollei, not dig. Far more dignity
    Lovely to see that Real PhotoJournalism is alive, well & kicking!

    Don’t forget to watermark the web stuff, so no B can claim orphaned work 😉

    1. Thanks Nick for the comment. Very little of my ROma years project was shot on digital, mostly it was all film, 6×6, 35mm, and 6×7. A right ol’ mish mash. Thanks!

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