The road that leads to Roma

©Ellie Ivanova, 2012. Celebration on the Square.

Roma Transitions, an online portal for news related to Romani issues in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, recently published an interview with me about the Third Eye photography project. It was a great occasion for me to talk about the ideas behind it and thank all the people who contributed. Here is an excerpt:

7. What do you see as the main impact of your project?

The most important thing is the involvement of children. Photography has an amazing impact on those who practice it. When you take a picture, you have to think hard about the reality you are photographing. You are forced to express a point of view, to find its hidden beauty, so it impacts on the photographers, on the relationship with their environment,on their reflective understanding of it.

The Roma children who take pictures are unburdened by prejudices so their viewpoint presents the Roma community from their own perspective, and shows that their lives, their emotions and values are just the same as everybody else’s. Even the differences are presented in such a way that other people appreciate them and find them beautiful. The most important aspect of the project is its impact against the prejudices, and the opportunity for Roma children to present themselves through their own eyes, and not in the way society sees them.

8. During the project, you met many Roma, and visited many Roma neighborhoods. What did you think about them? Aren’t you afraid of entering these neighborhoods that many of your countrymen find dangerous? What kind of a picture do you associate with the word „Roma“?

I was never afraid or concerned of going to Roma neighborhoods after all those years. I’ve lived in some places in Latin America that had the reputation of being very dangerous but where nothing bad happened to me and I would say that I felt rather safe and connected going to Roma neighborhoods in Bulgaria. People wanted to talk to me, take care of me, share experiences, rather than threaten me in any way. It has to do with being transparent and trusting people, and they will trust you back. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life. I love the Romani culture and would like to share it with other Bulgarians who only associate it with poverty and problems.

9. Are you satisfied with the results of your project? What did you achieve? What are your plans? Will you return again to Roma neighborhoods?

Good results are never fast or easy to achieve, their development takes patience, time and the good will of many, many people. So, in this respect, I am very satisfied with how the project has turned out and with its impact on Bulgarian public awareness related to Roma issues. But there is so much more work to be done, I am already planning more workshops next summer that would last longer and will feature larger presentations, and I am trying to find the institutional financing for it. My dream is to create a consistent and reliable platform some day that would offer young Roma people a venue for self-expression, and maybe a magazine, an online platform, perhaps a publishing house that would collect and then distribute their photographs or stories to mainstream newspapers and other Bulgarian media on a permanent basis. That would have a definite impact on mainstream society.

13. Would you like to thank someone or add something as final words or message?

Ultimately, the big reason for me to return to the Roma neighborhoods are the Roma people, my fascination for their life and culture. Being there allows me a glimpse of something that has long disappeared in mainstream Bulgarian culture and that I vaguely remember from my childhood: a sense of community, celebrations, the joy of life. It’s a pleasure to be there and experience it. For that reason, I think it is not just necessary for society to help Roma people get the same opportunities as everybody else, but actually beneficial for all others to learn more about Roma culture and the Romani wisdom and perspective on life. It’s not just one side giving by helping Roma kids, it is also non-Roma people as a whole who will receive a lot in return from this experience. So, I wanted to say a big thank you to all those who welcomed me so generously to their homes and hearts! I appreciate your love and care and hope to see you next year!

You can read the whole interview here.


One response to “The road that leads to Roma

  1. Pingback: My photographs, now live | Parasol Photography

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