A glance in the eye
The are about 200,000 Roma in Russia. This number includes different ethnic groups. Each Romani group is unique both linguistically and ethnographically. They wear different traditional clothes and practice different crafts. But to the average Russian they are all alike. All Romani groups in Russia are equally discriminated against. A popular superstition says: “Never look a Gypsy in the eye”. Whatever that means, it applies to all aspects of Roma’s life – they are almost completely disregarded by today’s society, which is “afraid” to look at the poverty and otherwise dreadful conditions many Roma have to cope with.
The Kalderash Roma came to Russia from Romania in the early 20th century. Their traditional culture and language (belonging to the Indo-Aryan group of the Indo-European phylum) are very archaic and well-preserved. After 1956, when nomadism was officially prohibited in the Soviet Union, they settled in the outskirts of many large Russian cities. Unemployment and lack of access to education are but one problem they have to face. They are perceived by their Russian neighbours as some sort of mystical evil. Only those who do not fall victim to the absurd stereotypes surrounding the Roma are able to see what they really are: a hard-working, hospitable, and joyful people.
The everyday life of Russian Kalderash Roma became the main focus of my work and, for that matter, of my entire emotional and intellectual activity in the past year or so. This series presenting double photographs is an attempt to look them right “in the eye” without turning away. Each setting captured by the camera must be given a closer look, revealing detail otherwise unavailable to a superficial and/or biased observer.