Above: Ramona and her husband translate her words into Romani for the project Elvira and Me.
I have become profoundly uncomfortable with the debates over exploitation which swirl around contemporary photojournalism, and want to hand an element of control back to my subjects and to produce a body of work ‘with’ them rather than ‘on’ them.
This stems from my own need to find peace within the documentary process, but there is a parallel trend for ethnographers to seek a more equal relationship with their informants….I mention this as ethnography and anthropology are areas from which I have drawn much inspiration during the early phases of this project.
While there are numerous collaborative aspects to the project, some subtle and others overt, there is no doubt that from a creative point of view it remains an unequal partnership. I think to some extent this has to be the case – I am ultimately in control – but I am making the process as participatory as I can and ensuring they are comfortable and involved with everything I am doing.
The methodology so far has been one of trial and error, blundering on and seeing what they are interested in going along with, and what works from a storytelling point of view.