Anna’s story and the benefits of collaboration

June 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

I’ve published a new gallery today – telling the story of Anna, who moved to Britain from Hungary in 2009. There are fewer Romani people in the UK from Hungary than from other countries, notably Czech and Slovakia, but there are clusters of them in Lancashire and Yorkshire, where Anna now lives and works as a school support worker. I met her at a Roma Source conference in March, where I did a presentation about my photography project and she was speaking about what her tiny – and until recently fairly mono-ethnic – school has been doing to integrate its new Roma children. I warmed to her immediately and knew I had to convince her to become part of this project – not least because I want to represent as many different nationalities as possible. Little did I realise then that Anna is an incredibly strong woman, highly political and an accomplished artist in her own right.

Although my entire Roma Project has been collaborative, this has manifested itself differently with each participant and sometimes it has been more or less participatory at different points in each story. In terms of narrative it has usually been me who has shaped it, albeit it in consultation and ongoing conversation with each individual. With Anna it has been completely collaborative the whole way through – she knew from the start what she wanted to talk about, and she had strong feelings about whether I had captured her message properly or could do better. This has ultimately led to the work being stronger than it would otherwise have been – and it feels good to have someone so invested in the outcome and so pleased with the result. Anna also wanted her words to be translated into Hungarian – to make her message accessible to women from her own community – so she translated the transcript of her edited audio interview back into Hungarian to enable me to add subtitles. A second collaboration came about thanks to the assistance of Manchester photographer Anita Farkas, who kindly translated Anna’s poetry and a review of her work from Hungarian into English for me.

Please click on the photo above – or on Anna’s name in the menu to the left – to see her story and hear her words.