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Joakim Eskildsen: The Roma Journeys: India, Greece, Romania, Hungary, France, Russia, Finland Hardcover – August 1, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
That this book is so very well organized makes this tremendous effort manageable. The book offers three approaches to this study; first and foremost it is a photographic book, secondly, text adds historical perspective intermixed with a lovely well chosen simple telling of everyday observations, thirdly and also very interesting is an audio CD; we hear sounds and spirits of the people, dancers bells, language, and as ever, gypsy music. For all that is included, this books remains very enjoyable; it deserves sufficient time and focus.
The photographs are beautiful for their exceptional use of light and play of color, an expert use of film matched to light. Images show intimate homes, they also show larger aspects of village and community environment. The apparent connection in portraits presumes familiarity and trust earned by the photographer. He demonstrates casual and caring relationships of individuals and families; portraits are captured both as formal environmental portraits, yet often in casual and spontaneous activities. We see warmth, connection, tenderness and whimsy.
All is light and mood. Light streams through windows, light enhances portraits. We see winter light, early morning light, setting sun, low light of coming storms, late evening lighting...it is always the background subject, and it is thoroughly photographic. Intense and subtle colors show the colorfulness of the people as well as the creative photographic choices. Interspersed are black and white panoramic images, mood filled dark wintry nights, misty fogged landscapes, fields and towns, and the spontaneity of it's people.
Each country and culture is different and subtly portrayed as such...that fact occurs to us after some thought.
Text addresses questions of Roma origins, specifics of language, and history. These are re-asked questions with suggestions of answers. We learn of superstitions, unwritten laws, snake charmers acrobats and musicians, the effects of environment on travelers, their long-standing trials, and often, persecution. They face prejudices, they face efforts on the part of country after country, demanding to various degrees, assimilation and stability, yet many Roma still refuse to settle.
In short both photographer and writer are non-judgmental, though they differ in their approach, both are alike in that way. If judgments need to be made, they are yours. We can surmise their struggles from what is shown and told us. It's a very interesting and a beautiful documentary, of peoples and places very few of us will ever experience.
The book is arranged in seven main sections, each representing an in-depth insider's perspective of the daily lives of Roma Gypsies who live in communities in seven very different countries. We are able to soak up the visual richness of the Roma's personal surroundings and unique ways of living while they adapt to (and resist) the influence of the dominant cultures of Hungary, India, Greece, Romania, France, Russia and Finland.
Overall, The Roma Journeys is an important document and exploration of a unique group of people as they live their lives in the midst (or on the fringes) of seven distinctly different cultures. At the same time, it is a beautiful photo book.
We are made to understand the level of prejudice and hatred that the Roma suffer almost universally in the world. We bear witness and begin to understand, too, how and why they refuse to adapt too much to outside cultural influences. We are also able to see the daily celebrations of the simple things in life, and the love and joy they share along with the hardships they endure.
We are told: "Throughout their history, the Roma have been subjected to persecution, expulsions across Europe, slavery in Romania, prohibition on the use of the Romany language, and other creative attempts to misuse, assimilate or extinguish their people. Many Roma still have to deal with discrimination on various levels, and in all European countries, the general attitude towards them is at least suspicious."
This book is the result of seven years (2000-2006) of travel and living within each of these communities in an attempt to understand the people and their culture.
Joakim Eskildsen took the photos (all remarkable, and with a lovely mix of color 4x5s and black-and-white panoramas). His traveling partner, Cia Rime, wrote all of the texts, which read like an engaging mix of journalism, sociological study and personal diary notes.
The book is big, heavy, beautiful, and not a bit too long. It is equally pleasing to read it straight through from cover to cover (over several days or weeks), or to flip through it at random and soak up the richness of the imagery. The differences in lifestyles within each national culture is quite surprising, too. The gypsies in Finland seem very, very different from their cousins in Hungary or Greece.
The book also includes a CD of a "sound collage" of music and daily life which is perhaps the only weak element in this project -- but it's worth listening to one time while looking through the book.
Hats off to everyone involved with this book. It is the kind of book you can enjoy and treasure for a lifetime.