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Gypsy therapy

ROM / : Photographer Harald Medbøe's method lies between subject and lens.


"There is something about these eternal travelers that has always seemed attractive to me," writes the photographer Harald Medbøe in his book Rrom – gypsy journeys (Futurum, 2006) and further that stays among Roma (1) are "like being in the Wild East. To manage, it requires vigilance in a completely different way than here in the regulated world". (2) The book is one road movie in search of something human, a common point of view to understand, driven by curiosity and fascination. The images are the result of communication between subject and lens. The photograph is of great interest among the rooms. Many of those photographed were paid with paper copies. Some of them have torn the pictures apart. In this way, those depicted each got their share. His treasure, his unique fragment of time passed that has been captured. So unlike the copy/paste image culture with today's digital technology. So deeply respectful of the medium. We see this in the photograph [photo 1], where a multitude of people gather around some photographs, with an intensity on a level with what the photographers of the eighteenth century must have encountered.

1: It has been common practice among photographers that the people pictured get some copies for their own use. What we see here, on the other hand, is a family that rejoices over pictures that represent complete strangers

The relationship with the photograph, the camera and the photographer characterizes many of the images in the book. The depicted appear with perfect concentration, most often smiling and proud. Many of them are presented with a name and a story. Medbøe writes: "I am a guest in their world and not looking to change it."

The term The East would gets its content with the hat-wearing group at night [image 2], where the pose exudes a cowboy life lived outside the home. In the corner, a proud little girl has crept along. Her smile contains exactly the pride that can come from having chosen the right day to explore the world: the day a camera was in use. At least that's what we see.

Art – regardless of the form in which it appears – will be able to create passages to an everyday life that is different from the one we have in front of us. Photography is a mechanical process, but the choice of what should be inside and what should be outside the image surface lies with the photographer. The experience and possibly the effect of this lies with the viewer. Some of the images in the series are confronting to look at.

Harald Medbøe

The chapters "Trash Gypsies", about Turkish Roma who have lived on the landfill for generations [image 3], and "The rich gypsies", who live like in Disneyland [image 4], are eye-opening. It is then that I am reminded of the power the picture series has on me as a reader. The confrontation with such brutal social differences, which are placed between two covers, is painful to watch. In such a split, it is even the room however, we got closer. These images do not change the culture they depict one iota, but it is possible that they change the way we see it. Medbøe's images broaden the perception of what is normally. Therein they have their humanity and inherent radicality. Medbøe himself has also called his project gypsy therapy, where the collision between eastern and western structure can lead to a return to something human. The photograph thus has a function beyond delineating shadow and light in a given glimpse of life.

(1) For a conceptual discussion,

(2) Harald Medbøe. Rrom – gypsy journeys
(Oslo: Futurum Forlag, 2006)

Sverre Følstad
Sverre Følstad
Almost art registrar I MODERN TIMES.

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