|Gypsies have historically attracted photographers: the colorful women,
nomadic lifestyle and shroud of mystery that envelops a closed society.
These elements also attracted me to the Bouchon family. But as well as belonging to the gypsy culture, they were
also a clan of serious musicians and appealed to my passion for
flamenco. The Bouchon family lives in Manosque, France in a "base camp."
I met them through a mutual friend who is active in the "Gypsy Politic."
Going into this project, I had a vague sense of what I was hoping to document: music, lifestyle and the eventual pilgrimage they would make to Saintes Maries de la Mer, where they would play at the festival for the patron saint of the Gypsies.
From the beginning, I felt a dilemma coming on. The Gypsy "stereotype" was legendary and I didn't want to further contribute. I was tired of hearing all my camera gear would be stolen, that I shouldn't bring any money with me, etc. I was torn by conflicting responsibilities: one was to be objective, the other to "defend" from stereotyping this Gypsy family of which I had grown fond.
In my notes I wrote: "I feel like a scientist with a theory, and I am simultaneously proving it right and wrong."
I found great pride went into their homes, the campers. They were washed down every day and spotless inside and out. Children were cared for with a fervent devotion, they were enveloped in the love and protection of all the adults in the camp. I was treated like a family friend, invited here and there in the camp for coffee or dinner, and offered a mini-trailer to sleep in if I wanted to stay over.
At the same time, education was for gadje, non-gypsies, so the children never went to school. No one in the camp could read or write, the phone was the only means of communication beyond the berm. The daily trip to the supermarket for cigarettes and groceries was taken in a Mercedes Benz that started with a screwdriver rather than an ignition key.
These photos and experiences distilled within me a better understanding of the
Gypsy identity and experience. The Bouchons are not only passionate
musicians and a traditional Romani clan. They are resourceful,
resistant, enduring nomads on the margins of a mainstream, sedentary