Gypsies, or Romani peoples as PC goes, make up the largest minority in Bulgaria. There are many controversies surrounding their culture, and many thriving stereotypes that need to be revisited... Personally, I subscribe to the ideology proclaiming that stereotypes are bad not because they are untrue, but because they are incomplete. At any rate, I feel that gypsy people are not just misrepresented socially, but also under-represented artistically. If we, the majority of ethnic Bulgarians, could take a better look, a more opened and deeper look into the Romani folklore and found it within ourselves to understand it, we probably would be able to figure out why in the world the whole "integration" thing is so terribly difficult...for all of us.
I took these few portraits four years ago in Lovech, Bulgaria. Hyacinth (Зюмбюла) and her two friends used to stop by our house, have a smoke, a cup of coffee, and a little chat with my Mom, and inquire if we had any work they could do around the place. They have helped us before, and we have helped them too. I am not sure what is happening with Hyacinth nowadays, but I saw the younger woman this summer and she is doing quite well. I like how raw these images are, how strikingly unapologetic they seem, especially compared to much of my other work that shows smooth faces and somehow controlled environments and poses. Romani people are many things, but they are also real. Life is real for them, and regardless of whether we agree with it or not, there's something primal and free in the way they live it.