New York Photo Review
from the NYPR Archives

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

The New Gypsies
Iain McKell
The New Gypsies
Ed Barnas
 by Iain McKell. Source: clicgallery.com
Iain McKell

The New Gypsies chronicled by Iain McKell are neither Romany from central Europe nor descendents of the Irish and Scottish Travelers who roamed the UK. Rather, these are modern nomads who have left the cities and taken to the open road, walking beside brightly colored wagons laden with all their possessions as they follow an annual circuit of gatherings and festivals across the UK. McKell first encountered their progenitors in the double-decker buses of the Peace Convoy during the Summer Solstice in 1985. At Stonehenge in 2001, he came upon this new group of itinerants, now using horses for motive power but adding solar cells, mobile phones, and laptops to their kit. Intrigued by this combination of the old and the new, McKell has photographed them over the past decade, referring to the work as a personal journey, not a documentary. Based in London, he has met with the “Horsedrawn” at various gatherings, gotten phone calls when something interesting is happening in their lives, and walked with them alongside their wagons for up to a week before returning to his urban life.

The photographs on view at CLIC Gallery are mainly portraits. Old and young are presented formally, generally centered in the frame, some looking directly while several glance sidelong at the viewer – and others seem to be looking into the distance beyond. The background is mostly the natural environment of the camp, although several are against a plain green tarp that isolates the subject. These portraits, ranging form head and shoulders to full length, have a certain fashion-editorial feel to them given the sometimes-eccentric attire of the subjects, yet their formal quality reminded me more of Edward Curtis’s photographs of Native Americans. The image of the “Mermaid” on her horse was most resonant of Curtis, though I was also intrigued by the varying levels of perceived interaction between the subject and photographer in the various portraits.

 by Iain McKell. Source: clicgallery.com
Iain McKell

The wagons were also photographed in a formal manner, centered in a square frame, mostly when uninhabited except for a guard dog or a child. A few landscapes complete the exhibit, although the one without any wagons in it (a dirt road leading off through fields) seemed to symbolize this lifestyle best.

In his choice of subjects and how they are photographed I see the attraction this lifestyle holds for McKell, though from what is not shown I also understand it is not a lifestyle for everyone. For many it will be experienced through the eyes of skilled photographers like Iain McKell who walk with these New Gypsies as they travel their own road.

[The exhibit is accompanied by a book of the same title published by Prestel containing more images from the series.]

Iain McKell
The New Gypsies


Clic Bookstore and Gallery (C)
255 Centre St.
Lower Manhattan - East         Map

212 219 9308
clicgallery.com

Monday, August 29 to
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Hours: Tue-Sun, 12 to 7
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery