On the street we also visited the infamous area next to the central train station in Bucharest. It used to be the centre for all the homeless and drug addicts. A little hole in the earth in an adjacent park used to be the entrance to the underworld – the sewers of the city where thousands lived.
When I visited the canal was closed down, the entrance still visible but not accessible. Right next to the station a derelict building. A large group of heavily addicted people still lived there. It had a roof but no walls. It was summer and very hot. Carpets and blankets protected the community from the outside stares. But no one really cared. They were in the middle of everything but invisible.
The inside was hot, steamy and dark. Just a few slits let some daylight in. The worst imagination became reality. The rumours of kids taking drugs at a very early age, sniffing glue. That’s a sight one never forgets. To be robbed of probably the most valuable time in your life – your childhood. Young bodies with old eyes. Not even desperation, just bland indifference towards the outside world. No desire, no joy just pure nothingness. And still there were kids. With a life ahead of them.
The local community boss let me into his private chamber. He had his own little separated area and was very proud of it. Being very protective he kept always very close to me. Not in a mean way, not offending or threatening… just making sure everything was all right with his people.
Sometimes you have to let go. We visited this Roma family in Sofia, Bulgaria and were rejected. No photos. Absolutely no. We still had a chat we as we were genuinely interested and started a conversation. Next day we came back and continued. After a while I noticed that one of the guys kept looking at my camera. I got up, put it around his neck and asked him to take pictures of me if he wanted. Not at all… he went straight to his family members and had a great time shooting them. That’s him:
Here are a few of his images. Without hesitation I have to admit I wouldn’t have been able to take these intimate and beautiful portraits myself. All of a sudden the allegedly dangerous ex-con transformed into a documentary photographer. Next day he actually asked me in a very nice but also insisting way to buy him a USB stick and give him a copy of all files – he certainly got it.
The most fascinating part of that experience would still wait for me. At some point they all liked the experience and put on some music. A few minutes later we all started dancing on the street. One can imagine the slightly irritated people passing us… Don’t want to miss a minute!
Concordia took me to some of the most deprived areas around Sofia to show me the appalling conditions the Roma have to live in. At first glance it’s indeed not very intriguing but after a while one realises that not everything we consider good or bad might be the case for someone else. I saw such a strong and beautiful community. Certainly the government should do a lot more to improve their status and accept their way of living. But for me personally it was a fantastic experience. Again, the positive, the emotional and also the fun draw my attention and not so much the circumstances.
When these guys came along with their horse cart I was expecting a lot but certainly not one of the funniest pictures I have ever taken. It happened so quick and in hindsight I am still wondering who’s got the better teeth?