Resource: The Gypsies Photobook – Josef Koudelkas.

This book by Josef Koudelkas is named Cikáni (Czech for Gypsies) but if often just called ‘The Gypsies’. Koudelkas presents a set of stark images that depict the poverty and clannishness of Gypsy life. However, he doesn’t present it as a problem that should be fixed. He represents them as outsiders, but shows their lives as wonders of mystery.

I was interested in the project because it looks at a narrative that stems from childhood to death – a long chronological order from start to finish that looks at the day to day life of these people.

I have managed to get some images of the book (not all of them, but this is the general order they appear.)

As you can see from the images, the narrative is very much going from birth to death with aspects of living in between such as the birth of new people and marriage etc.

Narrative is important when conveying or telling a story and the fact that this one moves so smoothly within its transitions is a great point that I felt really worked in creating this final layout. Every image has its own page within the project making you focus on that image and that image alone. I also noted that the images always appear on the right hand side and never the left hand side. This is likely to be down to design style, but in this case the use of white space has really helped the book to flourish, especially in the case where the images appear as black and white anyway. The photographs fill the pages mostly and are as big as they can get which draws attention to them and makes you look into them more closely.

I love the fact that the narrative is as it is because I feel there is something very finite about it as well as special. Despite Koudelkas not judging the people in his photographs at all or trying to convey a certain ‘story’ or ‘stereotype’ or ‘ideal’ about them, he has successfully instead just presented a basic life and death view that everyone goes through, but based purely upon their society.

I think it gives a great representation and a good reference point in regards to not only understanding power relationships and understanding how people can be misrepresented, but also in terms of how well the narrative helps to convey their life story and what they are all about as well as what they celebrate.

Misrepresentation is all too common, so the fact that Koudelkas has not tried to be stereotypical in his representation is a great pro to this project.

Narrative is important and without it I think this book wouldn’t read the same way that it does. It is a good resource to look at, especially in regards to understanding how to build a narrative and what works in terms of success and what doesn’t.


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