JURY'S CHOICE

 

Elisabeth Blanchet

Lives in France

 

www.elisabethblanchet.com

 

 

Gypsies and Travellers in the UK

 

I have always been interested in people who live in communities, how it influences the way they live. What are their relationships with the other members of the community and with the outside world ? What is home to them? How are they attached to it? These are the questions I always have in mind when I photograph communities.

 

When I arrived in the UK in 2001, I found out that most of the Gypsies in Britain were English and Irish and that there were council run sites a few tube stations away from Central London. I started to go to different sites in Peckham, Bermondsey and West London. lt was the beginning of a long term project which took me all over the UK to document life on various sites, fairs like the Appleby Horse Fair, evictions like the Basildon one, weddings, communions and funerals ...

 

To most of the Irish Travellers I met, home is lreland. They go back when there is a wedding, a family gathering, holidays, but home is also their caravan. Although modern society forced them to settle down on sites, they keep their trailer immaculate, as if it was always ready to be hooked at the back of the car to hit the road again.

 

Entering a Gypsy's caravan is a fascinating moment. lt's like being taken into another world. Porcelain knick knacks decorate the shelves, lace curtains on the windows, dolls, cushions and thick plastic covers on the couches. The floor is covered with kitsch rugs, the walls with family photos. There is smell of perpetual cleanliness. And whatever the weather, it's always warm and cosy in a caravan.

 

I have been working with Gypsies and Travellers in the UK since 2002. lntrigued by the tact Gypsies in the UK are mainly English and Irish, and have been nomads for centuries, 1 really wanted to find out about who they were, what their way of lite was, what the relationships between the members of the different Gypsy communities were.

 

lime and patience have always been my key words to be able to get truthful and intimate images of my "subjects", waiting for them to forget about me being around. Sometimes I would go to a Gypsy site and corne back without any pictures because it was not the right time. People wouldn't have been in the mood, or would have rather talk. Sorne other times I would corne back with magic shots, images that would really make me happy.

 

I guess I have an insatiable curiosity. What I am trying to do through my projects is to catch moments of intimacy, moments of everyday lite, habits and routine, people are happy to share with me. Photography allows to freeze them in time forever.