Friday, 29 May 2009

In the midst of the credit crunch, a group of 7 to 14 year old Roma in East London are showing you don’t need expensive digital cameras to produce professional photographs.

Working with The Children’s Society and arts group, Akademia Pstryk, this group of talented young people are using pinhole photography to produce a picture book that will teach people about their culture. 1,500 copies of the book will be given away at public events, and it will also be available to download online.

The Roma people originated from India around 1000 years ago and are currently Europe’s largest ethnic minority. However, widespread ignorance of Roma culture has meant prejudice against the Roma is still common in mainstream society.

Roma culture is so rich with stories and songs that have been passed down verbally for generations that story-telling sessions can go on for many hours. For centuries these stories have been told only to a chosen few, but now everybody has the chance to enjoy them.

The group has chosen to work with a traditional story of a family threatened by the mysterious Bumburumbum living secretly at the top of their house. One-day, mum sends her children to fetch the smoked meat from the attic for her cooking, but they don’t return and it is only when dad returns to a silent house that the Bumburumbum finally meets its match.

With the help of Akademia Pstryk, the group have illustrated the story using pinhole photographs. This little-known technique is not only a cheaper alternative to digital photography; it is also very environmentally friendly. Using cardboard boxes, paper and chemicals no longer needed by professional labs, the young people made their own cameras and developed their own photos.

The young people are now ready to share their knowledge with the public. During Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month (June) they will be taking to the streets of Newham and the South Bank to give away copies of their books to parents and children as well as teaching members of the public how to do pinhole photography themselves.

The work is funded by the Arts Council, The Polish Consulate and The Children’s Society.