A recent book released by British photographer Iain McKell looks at the life of what some in society call the new age gypsies. McKell has followed a small group of these travelers for over 10 years and has recently released a new photo book on the evolution of their lifestyle. He represents the progression of this group through beautiful images of people who have chosen to live a tiny life on wheels. He tracks the movement from petrol based, motorized vehicle travel to the now more common horse-drawn wagons that this particular group uses.
Although they’ve turned to a more traditional mode of travel still found throughout Europe in the lifestyle of the Romani, McKell reflects that this does not mean complete isolation from society. He makes note in an interview he did with anothermag.com that these folks are using modern technology, including solar panels, laptops and social media, to stay connected to the world while they live travelers lives in wagons. His pictures are stunning and this foray into a subculture having nothing to do with the Romani culture is fascinating to me but I feel divided on the matter.
It begs me to questions how the Romani might feel about westerners appropriating their lifestyle and how this impacts the view society has of their culture. As a ethnic group that has been, and continues to be, persecuted how does a community of western “new agers” impact the ideas and stigmas people have around this type of lifestyle. This western group of travelers is made up of the young, old, families, individuals, poor and rich alike so it’s not just one section of society being represented and while I love this tiny lifestyle and their anti-petrol approach, I have to wonder at the cultural appropriation that may be occurring in their choice of lifestyle.
Does this hold a negative connotation or not? Is it assimilation or appropriation? I’ll put away my contemplative hat for a minute but I think it’s worthwhile to ponder and if you are looking for more vardo inspiration check out Ryan’s post on this awesome wagon built by an archeologist!
- Do you itch for a gypsy lifestyle?
- Would you pull your vardo by horse or by vehicle?