EDITION: December '07 - Ferbuary '08

"Catching The Moment” with GENNARO BROOKS-CHURCH


Those special tantalising moments... We love them, we crave them, we stuff our memories full of them and many of us know that living in Ibiza is one of the best ways to get lots of them... But it’s nice to be reminded too that there is life beyond these gently lapping waves – A whole world in fact of other people having special moments – So big thanks to Gennaro for bringing some of them back to us.
Gennaro spent months hanging out with gypsies (or Roma as they prefer to be called) in different countries, befriending them, living amongst them and taking beautiful photos. Normally he says the Roma are “quite isolationist”. “Most people don’t get as intimate with them as I was.” So how did he find himself not just tolerated but positively welcomed? To Gennaro it’s very simple: “I had no malice in my heart and that’s easily seen in somebody.”
A child of hippy parents Gennaro grew up in Ibiza. He had a sense of living on the outer edges of society and feels that this gave him a natural affinity with his subjects.
But was it this that drove him from his now successful life in New York to live amongst some of the poorest people in the world? Or was there more?
“ Part of the act of a photographer is to be a witness in somebody’s life. We all need witnesses. It’s an essential part of being alive. If we don’t have a witness to our experience we’re not fully connected to the rest of the world. That’s why there are libraries and paintings on cave walls... Even if you don’t create you need some sort of proof that you existed. The Roma are an incredibly anonymous and ignored group of people. They do not feel like they are chronicled. They do not feel that they are seen, acknowledged or appreciated.”
He points out that poor people in general don’t chronicle their lives very well and that “the Roma tend to be the poorest minority in what ever country they are in.”
So do the photos convey a deliberate social message?
“ Only in the sense that they are social. It’s quite a political statement because these are people who most people are never social with and in fact are antisocial towards.”
He wants to give others the opportunity to interact with the Roma – “even if it’s just through a photograph, to see these people as fun people who don’t seem that bad at all, very friendly.” He wants to show people who are “likeable, approachable, lovable” and freely admits that he doesn’t pretend to be objective – “I’m a romantic, so my photos are very biased towards warm feelings, feelings of love... You can focus on the problem or you can focus on the solution... I’m focusing on the positive aspects of humanity in general.”
The economic deprivation and man made destruction is real and Gennaro doesn’t pretend it isn’t. But he wants to bear witness to the smiles, attraction, hope and pride that pop up in the midst of it like irrepressible flowers.
So what ultimately makes one moment more special than another?
“ It’s about capturing an emotional moment... a moment of intimacy, a sense of connection.”
Because the photos captured real emotions, within real situations, I found myself responding to them with very real feeling.