Åke Ericson captures an exuberant moment amid growing intolerance in an image from his book Non Grata
Any documentary photographer who chooses the Roma as a subject must inevitably work in the shadow of the great Josef Koudelka, whose 1975 book Gypsies is now recognised as one of the great photo essays of the 20th century. Time has imbued Koudelka’s often intimate images with an even more poetic quality, and the decade in which he made them is now viewed as a relatively benign period in their long history by the Roma themselves. Much has changed since.
This photograph was taken by the Swedish photographer Åke Ericson in the Luník IX settlement in Košice, Slovakia, in 2013, and shows a young Romany boy, Juraj Mizigor, performing a backflip for his friends beneath a rundown tower block. It is a study in resilience and resourcefulness as well as exuberance. The fact that it is in black and white, unintentionally or otherwise, links it to older images of the Roma from decades past, suggesting their long history of persecution and displacement.