Photographing the Roma people of Serbia

Last week I was in Serbia to take photographs for an article about the Roma people living there. This was a great experience which included meeting a lot of interesting people who was living in these camps or trying to help them.

The main problem the Roma people in Serbia has today is that they have no type of identification. There is a possibility to go to another town to get this, but the trip plus the cost for the identification can be as much as 150 euro per person, which is of course impossible to save up to when you don’t even have money for your daily food.

Without identification you are not allowed to get an apartment, hospital treatment or to work, which means no income. A lot of the people collects and returns paper though which barely gives enough money for food. The rest lives from food found in the trash.

The second problem is that the Roma people have no fixed place to stay and are unwanted everywhere. A lot of them move to Belgrade in the belief that it is easier for them to find a job there.

Some tries to go to other countries with trucks, paying with their last money/jewelry/possessions, to find themselves get thrown back to Serbia again. When they arrive they get left outside by the police (that follows them from the country throwing them out) outside the Belgrade airport with no money, no information and no idea where to go.

Most end up on the streets and after some time hopefully move into one of the about 150 Roma camps in Belgrade, which is houses of cardboard built up on a trash yard. After some years the government will destroy the camp to be able to build on that ground, and you will have to start from the beginning again.

Most of the Roma children don’t go to school because of the parents needing them to work instead, begging or collecting paper. On top of this they can’t afford to pay for the food the children need to buy if going to school. Also, if the children is born or have lived the main part of their life in another country they can’t speak or understand the Serbian language which will disable them in school.

The pictures below is from one of the camps I visited, this one in Belgrade. The spirit of all the people I met was very high and everyone being very positive and warm, although they have been informed that their camp will be totally destroyed to the ground within two months because it disturbs the view of a newly built modern house with expensive apartments, where by the way their old camp were placed before getting destroyed. They will probably not be told the exact date and the government will not allow photographers or other media people on the place when this happens.

kid girl begging for money

romani gypsy paper collecters

gypsy camp rooftops

gypsy house and skyscraper
The old camp was destroyed to make place for the building in the background. In two months time this camp will be destroyed for creating a better view for the people living in the new building.. No replacement living place will be offered to the people living in the camp.

gypsy houses and trash

young child walking in gypsy camp

gypsy kid with beer bottle

gypsy mother and son

gypsy romani housewife

happy romani friends

kids, mother washing in background

roma children in gypsy camp

roma kids play fighting

romani camp belgrade

romani children belgrade

romani cute girl

romani gypsy mother

romani kids playing in backyard

romani kids serbia

romani woman meeting

romani woman washing in camp

romani woman

old gypsy roma woman

5 thoughts on “Photographing the Roma people of Serbia

  1. Hi there,

    Great photos and very interesting to read something from your experience there. I’m going to Serbia as part of my visual anthropology field work so seeing this was quite helpful as what I’ve been reading/looking at concerns Roma musicians who have a somewhat elevated status. These Roma represent the majority so thanks for the post.


  2. Ha revisited this website and didn’t realise I already commented. I ended up going to that very same settlement, under a bridge near Vero supermarket. I don’t remember the name though, do you know it? Some families hadn’t been moved yet and thought that they might get to stay. Again, they were warm and friendly despite everything.

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