My aim is to show the truth


In 2006 NRC organized Nigel Dickinson’s photo exhibition “Roma through Europe”. Since then, with great respect we are following the art of this English photographer.



The importance is to provide information through emotion, putting situations into proper historical and contemporary context, rather than treat events in isolation, or draw upon the age old lies which often deny Roma the opportunities that should be available to them like any other person, says Nigel Dickinson, a British born documentary photographer, photojournalist and filmmaker working for 30 years in the field. His work focuses on the environment, human condition, marginalized communities, sustainable development, identity and culture. Dickinson is based between Paris and London. He is also represented by Polaris in New York. He works on long term projects across Europe, Asia and the Americas. His work was published in National Geographic Magazine, Figaro, Mare, Geo, Stern, Paris Match, D-Republicca, La Vanguardia, The New York Times. Marie Claire, Vogue, Spiegel, Focus, Time, Animan, Terre Sauvage, Grand Reportage, VSD, Newsweek, New Scientist, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Independent.


EDNO: How did you become motivated to photograph Roma people? Is there some story behind that?

Dickinson: I have worked with marginalized peoples and communities in struggle all my adult life. In the early 1990s one month of May, I was invited to visit the Saintes Maries de la Mer gypsy pilgrimage. I didn’t know what to expect. However I was given such a warm welcome by the Roma, Gitan and Manouche families during the festival, that I went again the following year. Over several years I got to know different families and individuals and was invited to visit them outside the festival, where I documented weddings and daily life which were published in magazines across the world. Nowadays I am godfather to some Roma children because of my long term relationships with Roma people. Some whom are amongst my greatest friends.

„A funny story is that my name Nigel is difficult for French to pronounce so the Gitan and Manouche called me Angel or Angelo, sometimes Anglais (the French world for English) then someone decided to call me Niglo (the Roma word for hedgehog), and that has been my nickname down there, ever sinceˮ.

After a few years I began to become interested in Roma in different countries and by the late nineties I was on and off living with and documenting the lives of a traditional English Romany family traveling with horse and wagon. As a photojournalist, I also went to Bosnia and Kosovo during the Balkan Wars and documenting the harrowing exodus of the Roma Kosovar refugees across Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and by Mafia boat to Italy.

By then I had three disparate documents about Roma which needed to be brought together. Firstly I decided to photograph Roma across Europe, but then I visited the Americas where there are millions of Roma, so I photographed them there. And I had the chance to visit Turkey and Georgia and even Rajasthan so the scope of my project has now become worldwide and more complete.


EDNO: How people (non Roma) are reacting when they see these photos?

Both non-Roma and Roma people are often surprised by what they see and question their preconceived notions of who Roma are. Whilst of course there are images which confirm their already established views about Roma people, there are plenty of other images which counteract this and show the other side of the coin, as it were. So it is impossible to say that Roma are only this, when one shows the complete opposite. Also the wide breadth of the work, across many countries and situations, shows things that even some Roma didn’t know; that Roma lived in one country or another, or were so wealthy, educated, well known, poor or had been subjected historically to so much persecution…


EDNO: Is there a message that you want to send by photographing Roma people?

My aim as a photojournalist and documentary photographer has always been to show the truth (as I see it). In this work, I show what it means to be Roma, enduring the racism and persecution, not only present day but historically, in both ancient times and more modern history; including the move through Persia from India towards Constantinople, the genocide during the Holocaust ‘porajmos’, the ethnic cleansing from Kosovo in the Balkans, the problems of European frontiers inside and outside Schengen territory, and continual diaspora and deportation even as far as the Americas. However my aim has also been to show positive and diverse examples of Roma in many different situations, sometimes very seriously and sometimes with humour, always with compassion and dignity, such as in religious and traditional festivals, or showing successful, educated Roma or creative artists, and diplomats and political ambassadors or grassroots struggle, where Roma are also the subject and not always the object of history. Such images and reports counteract the often untruthful and very negative images shown by the mainstream media. The importance is to provide information through emotion, putting situations into proper historical and contemporary context, rather than treat events in isolation, or draw upon the age old lies which often deny Roma the opportunities that should be available to them like any other person.

This in depth documentation has meant being involved with and within Roma communities. So the end product has not been just my perspective alone, but often a collective representation of what it means to be Roma. And not just to communicate to non-Roma but to Roma as well. I have a marvellous opportunity to witness Roma life and experience in so many different situations; most Roma do not have this, let alone Gadje. But it has not always been easy to win the trust of a wary people; sometimes it has needed weeks, months or even years to get close enough to photograph what I need. I am working towards a book, exhibition and interactive website to communicate this work to a wide audience, and I hope the information it provides helps in some way towards the understanding of the Roma people and their need for self-determination


On this link, you can find the galleries of Nigel Dickinson photos of Roma Gypsies, taken throughout the world


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