Project Detail: Searching for Peace


Reportage and Documentary 2022




Bela Varadi


Project Info

Searching for Peace

Gypsies and Travelles self-representation in the 21st century UK

One of the world's biggest ethnic minorities is the gipsies. Only their vulnerability is bigger than their population: they have no place to be called their motherland, often they do not speak a common language, and their cultures could differ significantly from each other. There is only one aspect of their life they all share: that is being persecuted. Recent legislation in England would effectively prohibit gypsy and traveller (GRT) lifestyles and force people to abandon their mobile lifestyle or face financial penalties or even imprisonment. The British media played a significant role in promoting this legislation by portraying GRT people as a threat to the settled majority lifestyle. Most media outlets adopted the simplified hero-victim-villain storytelling schema that led to a moral panic when judging GRT individuals and contributed to highly negative public opinions about GRT communities.

I wanted to create emotionally powerful stories representing the realities of everyday gypsy and traveller life and counteract the false presentation of the community. One of my main incentives with this project was to create a photo series where I could tell stories and show lives free from the old storytelling schemas, and I wanted to show the values and hopes of people without being overly romanticising or stereotypical. I believe my aspiration can be seen in some of my photos, even though it is impossible to fully achieve this aim within the current political and societal framework. I also tried to showcase various GRT experiences by taking photos in religious communities, LGBT+ organisations, and traditional and new age traveller communities.

This photo series was taken as part of the Hastings literary festival called A Town explores a book, and it was funded by the Arts Council England. The 2022 festival celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of the coming of age novel, The Diddakoi.