Well, If you remember my previous post when I was dreaming about the potential of photography to influence people’s lives and promote social change, and with my annual pilgrimage to Europe imminent, I started working to make it come true.
My focus was on Roma (Gypsy) kids, living in their often isolated, always marginalized communities in the Bulgarian countryside and most of the cities. Even though Bulgaria is now part of the European Union and has long been part of the globalized world, Gypsies have always experienced rejection from the mainstream society. Kids don’t have the social and educational opportunities available to other children and often they don’t even know what life looks like for the rest of their peers. On the other hand, their culture, traditions and point of view is ignored in the rest of the country, making it a cultural enclave, a community within a broader society with very few points of contact and interaction among them. This social problem gave me the inspiration for a workshop that would empower Gypsy kids by giving them the tools and the opportunity of self expression and the joy of being heard by others.
I organized and led two photography workshops for kids and teenagers in marginalized Roma communities in the towns of Shumen (Northeastern Bulgaria) and Kyustendil (Southwest). I called them “Third Eye” to honor the concept of the third eye as a symbol of enlightenment in the Indian tradition, where Gypsies come from, and to remind us all of the power of photography to capture the elusive.
The workshops happened through the enthusiastic support of many people who donated cameras, contributed ideas and smiles and generally helped put this collective creative engine into action. Many people got interested in the workshops and I’d love to thank them all for everything. I myself was surprised and excited by the great pictures kids produced. Our work ended with an exhibit in Sofia and we plan do it again next year, bigger and better organized and to maybe publish a book with the kids’ photography.
Here is a sample (see all photos on the project’s website, Treto Oko):
I chose this picture as the exhibit’s opening image because it’s symbolic while simple and beautiful at the same time. The photographer is Orhan (12 years old) and the model is Tony, who just finished 6th grade with excellent grades. Tony, or it could be any boy from his neighborhood in Shumen, is facing a closed door; behind that door there is everything we expect from the future, but we don’t really know what it is. We just need to open the door. Tony is looking down, but it’s not because of despair or hopelessness. He is just thinking about how to open it. That’s his interpretation. Continue reading