I entered a Roma camp for the first time in the winter of 2010. I wanted to see with my own eyes how these people lived. It was cold, grim and dirty. What I saw at first was nothing new to me as I had seen the photos of countless photographers documenting the living condition of the Roma people. Then I was invited in one shack, only one, while the other people looked at me suspiciously. What I found inside these thin wooden walls was to challenge and forever change the preconceptions, the prejudices, and the stereotypes that I had in my mind at that time.
Sabrina was abandoned by her mother when she was one year old. It was 2004.
Her grandmother, who had come from Romania 2 years before in search of a better life, had no choice but taking care of the baby as one of her own children. The relationship that developed became very strong and profoundly humbling. Also, it gave the broken woman a new meaning in her life: to secure a better future for the child. I spent long hours with the family, participating to their life, listening to their stories and photographing them: I was struck by the normality of their intimacy, inside the fragile walls of their home.
I was honored with an unconditional trust and a limitless access to something for me unknown and unseen yet of an astonishing simplicity: a woman caring for her child, regardless of any struggle or difficulty. This reality made me think of the nature of the behaviours and prejudices of a society that has condemned the Roma to be “the most hated minority in Italy” (cit. Arrigoni, Vitale 2008) and urged me to tell the story of Sabrina, who represents a not yet recognised minority and an entire generation at risk of isolation and exclusion.
Since the beginning this was not a one-way project, but rather an exchange, and encounter and a collaboration to which Sabrina participated actively, altering my images, drawing on them, painting e lastly photographing. Through a multitude of different languages, we are re-writing her story so that it will never be forgotten again and she will always knows who she is, where she comes from and what happened to her. Also through the images we are trying to reach out to people, and make them think, feel, laugh and cry. Through images we are trying to break the vicious circle of isolation that so dangerously is getting tighter and tighter Sabrina and her people.
Welcome to Sabrina’s world.
- Stefano Carini