My ten years of work, ranging over 17 countries, and
encompassing about 64,000 images has always been planned
as a book. The book
as yet, though, still remains unmade. Photo books, unless
they are of famous people, pets, or about sex, do not
often make money. They are a work of love. This means that it
is hard to find a publisher willing to make the commitment
of publishing something that at best will cover expenses.
But it is done all the time,
and so I am confident that the book will come into form
in it’s own time. For now, below you can read the
four page introduction to the book.
My dear friend Fito, Madrid, Spain,
The Book Intro
gypsy,” the man said as he sidestepped me.
Looking up from where I was sitting, I wondered what he had
meant. I didn’t know what a gypsy was, but from the
tone of the man’s voice, I knew it wasn’t a good
thing. I looked at myself. My hair was shoulder length, perhaps
a bit disheveled, and my clothes showed traces of an ice cream.
I was barefoot because it was hot and my mother had let me
go to the park without shoes. Before the stranger had interrupted
me, I was playing with an empty Coke can beside the pond.
After inspecting myself to try and find what he had deemed
so repugnant, I decided I looked fine (for a four year old)
and resumed my playing. But I never forgot his look. I later
learned to recognize that look, because, although I was not
a Gypsy, I was the son of hippie parents, and therefore also
undesirable to people like him.
For this reason, photographing Gypsies, or Roma, as they call
themselves, is personal. Like most Roma, I grew up in a large,
extended family that had a very strong sense of “us
vs. them.” In the Roma family groups that have kept
their customs, to be a Roma is to be part of a tight social
structure with rules and practices that are quite distinct
from mainstream western culture.
These frameworks regulate
all parts of Roma life, from eating, to marriage to how one
can interact with outsiders. Although my family had no specific
racial heritage, unlike the Roma, who can trace their roots
back to India around the 10th Century, we too had our own
set of values that set us apart, often negatively, from the
mainstream. In my community, “us” was a social
network of hippies scattered across the globe, and “them”
was the “straight” people, our derogatory term
for anybody who did such things as work nine-to-five, trust
Hippie values and customs are nothing like
the Roma’s, and hippies do not suffer racism, yet my
experience in the park taught me early that I was different
and unwanted by “straight” people, just like many
Roma are unwanted by their non-Roma neighbors, called Gadge.
Quickly after I learned that straight people did not like
me, I learned to not like them.