Reading through the Daily Mail online I came across the story, 21st Century Gypsies, this led me onto Iain Mckell the photographer who has published a book visually documenting his ten years following a group of gypsies and which also brings light to the infamous editorial of Kate amongst them.
About Mckell, 'Iain explores the world with an intense eye for detail and composition. He is a keen observer of people often seeming to notice the overlooked or subject matter that is under the radar. Weather working with an unknown sitter or an iconic celebrity he brings a democratic eye to the subject. He manages to create an air of incredible atmosphere to his distinct narrative locations, often placing his subjects in curious landscapes or intimate interiors. There seems to be a magical, yet sensitive quality to the images rendering them transcendent and other worldly.
Working within portraiture and fashion Iain manages to invest the images with his own strong vision. Iain often uses unusual characters rather than conventional models by doing this he questions and challenges are perception of ‘beauty’. When working with models or celebrities Iain manages to penetrate beyond the surface, he is drawn to the character of the person. The majority of the work is constructed and carefully planned. Iain will often draw in story board form his ideas like a Directer before shooting a film and visits locations planning the shots in great detail. This enables him to create provocative, spontaneous and effortless looking images.'
And the gypsy story....he invited Kate Moss to collaborate in his long term personal project and challenged her to travel, camp and live with New Age Gypsies. Creating a unique fashion story along the the way that raised questions and challenged perceptions of both supermodel and traveller.
He published a book 2011 with Prestel entitled The New Gypsies this came about as he followed a small tribe of Horse Drawn Travellers in the UK for 10 years He managed to pay homage to their 18th Century life style which they combine with 21st century technology. In this project he covered portraits, the wagons, horses and the landscape they inhabit.
Here is Mckell's interview in Another magazine...Where, how and why did this project come about?
It began in 1986 with the New Age motor vehicle travellers called The Peace Convoy and then when I returned to Stonehenge Summer Solstice in 2001. To my surprise I found this new renegade tribe that had evolved to horse-drawn wagon but had all the modern technology as well – solar power, mobiles phones, laptop computers and off course facebook. I loved this idea of the old and the new working well together and the open road.
What was your initial perception of gypsies and how was this altered by the time you spent with them?
Punks in the landscape anarchy and beauty.
Did you face any challenges or come across any difficulties?
The winter is hard and having to dig a hole with a shovel to make a toilet.
Did you learn anything from their way of living?
Yes, their passion for it. They are so absorbed in the lifestyle and looking after the horses making wagons. It’s very inspiring.
What are your views towards the image of gypsies that has been recently portrayed by the likes of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?
This is a personal journey with new age modern travellers. The point being they have no history of Gypsy that’s what makes them interesting to me. That they have chosen to live by the road with horses keeping the tradition alive of really travelling and not staying in one place. They come from our culture so they are like us rather than the traditional travellers who are from different blood.
How would you sum up this photographic series?
It’s a personal journey not a documentary, an experience beyond our imaginations. To show a way of living that is both colourful and meaningful. Drawing from the past and combining with the future creating a progressive new idea and values not based on materialism and not been chained by the stress and complications of our modern existence.
What do you hope viewers get from this book?
To transport them to a place in their imaginations. To raise that question about how we perceive travelers and to re-exam our own existence. We all desire nature deep inside and have a desire for freedom. A sense of there could be another way to live and to question what standards we apply to create a full life.