Consider the "Gypsy" photograph as text. The prevailing ingredient is exoticism, an "otherness" separating this group from its majority context. Such style of photograph, in the words of Professor Miroslav Vojtechovský, produces a theatre of grotesque characters, irreconcilably different, without redemption. Often, those pictured are presented in garish colour, furthering the isolation.
RomaRising offers quiet, respectful black and white images of dignity, counter argument to those who would discriminate. First, we consider human terms. Among these mostly anonymous souls, a few even have capacity to perform as ministers within governments, and as society-wide leaders. Indeed, Mr. Ciprian Necula did become State Secretary in the Ministry of European Union Funds, representing the Romanian Government. There are further such individuals in other folios.
The Bulgaria and Romania folios and select portraits feature biographical narratives by Mary Evelyn Porter. Now one can hear in and individual's own words the life experiences that have given RomaRising participants their vibrancy. The narratives obviate "the tendency to define people of colour, rather than allowing them to speak for themselves." (Alina Serban, Actor, Romania)
Alas, many become sequestered to the "Gypsy Bubble" of Romani Affairs. Others are unable to use hard-earned university degrees to seek employment. Some of the most gifted have chosen to emigrate to locales where peace and security allow them lives of normalcy. Witness the obvious sense of freedom on the visages of those within the Canada folio.
Two final points, which initially escaped me: RomaRising, has become a record of feminine empowerment. Time and again we encounter women of strength and character stepping onto the stage, and with impact. RomaRising has become an interantional community: participants from 12 countries met one another at the RomArchive rollout in Berlin, some for the first time.
Our hope is that majorities everywhere will come to recognise that these individuals of RomaRising are talents of vast ability, any society’s found treasure. Regardless of their chosen path, one discovers them to be superlative embodiments of our common humanity.
Chad Evans Wyatt / Mary Evelyn Porter
While preparing the Bulgaria folio of RomaRising, we were asked to produce a side project on the next generation of Roma in Bulgaria, those of Areté Youth. Areté teaches Roma high school and university students about their history and customs. We eagerly agreed. —Chad Evans Wyatt & Mary Evelyn Porter