The Roma Of VancouverThursday, July 09, 2009
In January of 1997 Hadani Ditmars wrote an article for the Georgia Straight on the trials and tribulations of the small Roma community of Vancouver. I had the difficult task of taking the pictures. It was a difficult task for two reasons. For one, few of the gypsies on Ditmars’ list wanted to be photographed. I had to persuade them gently and I was able, in the end to photograph most of them including the family group which was in Vancouver applying for refugee status.
Bands of gypsies would occasionally come down my street when I was a child in Buenos Aires. They would ring our bells and offer to read our fortunes. As soon as we spotted the women with their ankle length dresses and colourful bandanas we would scurry inside the house. We had been warned by our mothers that gypsies robbed children. I was extremely afraid of them. Such was the power of prejudice.
Alas I have no copy of that Straight so I cannot properly identify the people here. One of them, the sad man with his right hand by his heart was Lolo, a well known flamenco singer at the Kino Café. I remember going there to photograph him. At that time smoking was permitted and the Kino was one of the smokiest joints in town. The sad woman looking down on the left is Julia Lovell.
I allowed my subjects to look into my camera and I did not give them much instruction. Yet most of them stared into my camera with what seemed an agony of suffering, many centuries long. Even when they smiled they smiled sadly. I am sorry that I cannot further dignify them with their name. On the other hand they overflow with it, dignity.