The houses of wealthy Roma in Eastern Europe have a distinct architecture. They are memorable because they look extravagant and massive from the outside, often overly decorated with turrets, stairs and balconies. But the interiors of these houses remain a mystery even for the people living in the vicinity of these closed communities. In his photo series Roma Interiors, Rome-based photographer Carlo Gianferro uncovers the mystery, and offers an unique glimpse into the private lives of the wealthy Roma.
How did you come up with the idea of this project?
“In 2003, a friend of mine, Patrizio Corno, an Italian architect, was working in Republic of Moldova, and he told me about Soroca. The centre of this city is constructed and inhabited by wealthy Roma. I was suddenly fascinated by the story, and I went to Soroca shortly after and then continued to travel for several years throughout Republic of Moldova and Romania to realize a photographic book titled Gypsy Architecture. The book was published in 2007 by the German publisher Axel Menges, and it’s all about the exteriors of wealthy and luxurious Roma villas. After the book was finished, I felt the need to tell a more intimate story, so I traveled again in those areas and gathered portraits of the interiors of these villas. I called this series Roma Interiors.”
Roma communities are often closed. How were you received as a photographer? Was it difficult to get access?
“It was difficult at the beginning, but I was lucky enough to get contacts. Once those people and their families realized I was showing a positive image of the Roma, I was really welcome and treated as a guest of honor and I’ve been allowed enter their private and colorful world.”
Where did you take the photos?
“All the pictures were taken in several villages in Republic of Moldova and Romania. Most of the villages are situated far from the main cities in areas with only Roma inhabitants.”
The photos are surprising and these days there are hardly any portrayals of wealthy Roma. How do you think your photos contribute to the Roma imagery?
“I’m actually proud my pictures have contributed to showing a new image of the Roma. They are indeed mostly seen as poor, beggars, dirty. I photographed an elite among the Roma, the ones that succeeded in forging a place, the house of their dreams.”
Gypsy Interiors was published in 2009 by Italian Postcart Edizioni.
All images © Carlo Gianferro