Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Gazela was an isolated community of over 200 Roma families living abjectly difficult lives under the Gazela road bridge in Belgrade, Serbia. They made their living from the recycling of metals and refuse, and the landscape around their homes was filled with toxic mounds of rotting waste. It was a ghetto split on the banks of one of the region’s most important rivers and on premium real estate eyed by the elites.

This photo story begins with the community living under the bridge before its destruction and partial relocation on August 31, 2009. The local government, with funding from the European community, is working to open the land for reconstruction and development. The project then follows these residents to their new homes across Serbia, some better and some worse than the original settlement.

The people living there, depending on their legal status, would either be given a new container to live in on the outskirts of the city, free transport back to their villages or if they had no papers, an unceremonious trip to the curb and likely a home in another improvised camp.

My motivation has been to photograph the vitality and essence of these men, women and children, beyond the ugly facade of their situation. Lives and livelihoods were uprooted, and a community disassembled. This is regrettable whether or not it is in the greater public interest or ultimately benefits the residents.

— Matt Lutton

Editor's note: I discovered Matt Lutton's work when I was judging the 2010 Anthropographia Awards for Human Rights and Photography. I'm happy to share it here with the readers of Lens Culture.
— Jim Casper