I can be pretty cynical, but in general I’d day that I am very optimistic and positive. I like to see the best in people until I am proven the opposite. I don’t see the point in stereotyping and prejudging entire nations, tribes or any groups of people for that matter. What have we got to gain from that?
In any case, it’s no secret that gypsies have quite a reputation around Europe, not necessarily the most positive one by any stretch of the imagination. Belarus is no exception. When I visited the village of Vidzy, one of the more fascinating places in the Braslav region (because of its’ multicultural population) I was given mixed impressions about the gypsies living there. Some folks said that all’s good, everyone lives peacefully and the gypsies are decent people. Others told me not to visit them with all that photographic equipment, because one way or another I’d “loose” it. One young man even told me not to visit them at all because I could be greeted with a punch in the face.
Nothing could be further from the last piece of advice. In fact after visiting three gypsy houses, I found them to be the most hospitable people I’ve met in Belarus yet. If there’s any truth to the theory that gypsies came from India, it was manifested through the instant invitations of the guests (us) for tea. I know that tea probably wasn’t around in India when (or if the gypsies) came out of that region, but still, the hospitality was all too familiar. When we met the local gypsy leader, the “Baron”, as they used to be called, he even offered us lunch, which isn’t so usual these days, at least it’s not offered to total strangers, not even by the very kind village people of the Braslav region.
To be honest I didn’t think anything negative of the gypsies in Vidzy even before I met them, but I also didn’t expect such level of hospitality and their eagerness to share whatever they had left of their culture. We spent about 4 hours just chatting to families and shooting a few frames along the way. The whole trip was another proof of why preconceptions should be left at home when we deal with real people, this is especially important if you’re a photographer.
The gypsy elder; 78-year-old Ivan Yanovich, his grandson Jan and his great-grand niece Xenia. Xenia was very playful and I wanted to show that through her pose/movement in the images, she just couldn’t stay still.
Another variation of the image from the top of the page. Because my wife Tanya and our local friend Anna were doing a lot of the talking with Filip and Vera (pictured) I had the luxury of just watching things like a fly on the wall and photographing whenever I saw a good shot.
That’s all for now folks. More images coming soon along with some stories.