Norwegian photographer fascinated by Roma ability to maintain cultural heritage in desperate conditions
In Oslo a book about Norwegian Romani people was recently been published featuring the photographs of Gorm K. Gaare. He has also documented the lives of Roma in Bulgaria, in the Czech town of Bělá nad Radbuzou near Plzeň, and in Slovakia.
"I am fascinated by Romani people's ability to maintain their cultural heritage irrespective of the desperate conditions they frequently live in, " Gaare tells news server Romea.cz. He was given his first camera at the age of six and his first darkroom at the age of 15.
He began studying photography in Norway and later decided to study abroad, spending three years at FAMU in Prague. "I didn't want a typical school, I didn't want to go to London or New York. I was fascinated by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, so in 1997 I came to Prague to study," he says.
Gaare met a 13-member Romani family living all together in a house in Bělá nad Radbuzou and photographed their everyday life during his countless visits. "When I came to the Czech Republic, I was aware of the conditions Romani people face here. There are problems with discrimination in the schools and other institutions, with xenophobia, with very bad living conditions. For a long time I hesitated because I was a big fan of [photographer] Josef Koudelka and I didn't want to just follow in his footsteps," he says.
Later he began to photograph Romani people in Bulgaria and Slovakia. "That was predominantly ghettos and villages where there was total poverty. That was a strong experience for me - the conditions for life in those places were worse than anything I had ever seen anywhere," he says.
On 8 April, International Romani Day, a book called It's Cold Outside: Roma in Norway was published in Oslo (the Norwegian title is Ute er det kaldt. Om romer i Norge). The publication familiarizes readers with the life of the Norwegian Roma and the photographs Gaare has taken of them.
"The Romani community in Norway is, compared to the Czech one, a small community of about 600 -700 people. However, I would say that the Norwegian standard of living is mostly higher," he says.
The photographer sees the Roma path to better coexistence with the majority as one of respect and tolerance: "The majority society should not be surprised that the Roma are skeptical about all of their various efforts or projects. Their historical experience with discrimination and rejection has lasted decades."
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