Sometimes there is much talk about Gypsies, but usually they are enveloped in silence. Their existence is a burden for everyone: for teachers, neighbors, for politicians. Whether we want to "elevate, integrate or assimilate” or to liquidate, segregate or regulate them, the discourse is always about them and not with them.
We always know just what the problem is: there are too many of them; they are different; they are strange, they don’t follow our moral codes, they are workshirkers, they are criminals – shall we go on with the list? We don’t know what they want, how they want to live. In Gypsy classes, in huts on the outskirts of villages, in prison, on state benefits?
Or do they perheps have desires like we do? Or are they really so unalterably different? How many times have we run around the same lap, and for how many centuries have they been running?...
It is painful to realize how much we, the so called majority, are not present in these photos. Everything there belongs to the Roma – the house, the pullover, the goat, all the absences. Gypsyland. It only seems to be a part of the segment of time and space called Hungary. It is another country, another towns, another Budapest: our Hungary is not like this. And yet our Hungary is like this.
This Gypsyland is in our Hungary, nevertheless, we visit it as foreigners. We watch and observe its inhabitants, a shocked group of tourists, while they look through us. They don’t see us as we tiptoe through their empty rooms, they don’t hear our sighs, our hushed greetings.We can’t leave our words there – how could we, without credibility, validity or meaning?
Gradually everything emigrates from Gypsyland, and only the people remain. They don’t have anything to say to us, but they did have something for the photographers: flower, cooking-stove, portable stereo, wife, kids. Heavy, simple sentences.
The gestures in front of the camera contain neither accusations, nor desires. All they have is certainty, wisdom and recognition. Peace. These people are beyond their Gypsyness. It is merely an ID card. A brown stamp that keeps and detains them in Gypsyland. But they are more than this: they are proud, happy, exhausted, sad, in love. If only we knew just this much about them, the days of Gysyland would be counted …
– György Kerényi
Editor's note: Judit M. Horvath and Gyorgy Stalter are Hungarian photojournalists. They are also married to each other. Over the course of more than 15 years, the pair travelled throughout Hungary photographing the deprived Roma gypsy communities, both in small towns and in the slums of the capital cities. They published their work as a book, Other World, in 1998.
I discovered Judit M. Horvath and György Stalter's work while attending the Fotóporta portfolio review in Budapest, Hungary.
— Jim Casper
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