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Through the lens with Govanhill’s young Roma photographers in new exhibition

In one of Scotland’s most socially deprived areas, young Roma have been learning to capture their environment through a new photography project

Seven young Roma from Govanhill in Glasgow have been learning how to take photographs, exploring their homes and streets through the lens of their cameras.

Govanhill, an area in the south of the city is among the most socially deprived in Scotland, and home to one of the largest concentrations of Roma people in the UK.

People get the wrong idea about Govanhill. There’s beauty here

Since November 2017 the young Roma have been learning both documentary photography to explore their environment, and studio portrait photography to create images of themselves and each other, at creative workshops run by photographer Robin Mitchell of the Glasgow-based social enterprise media co-op. He spoke of how much he enjoyed running the project:

“This project has been enormous fun for me, a professional photographer. While I’ve taught the young Roma technical and artistic skills about composition, light, and focus – I have learned from them about their lives and opinions, and seen their talents bloom.”

The Young Roma Photography project, PhotoMessage, is supported by Community Renewal in Govanhill and Friends of Romano Lav, funded by the People’s Health Trust and the New Economics Foundation.

The exhibition runs until March 11 at Glasgow’s Tramway.

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One photographer, 20-year-old Rahela Cirpaci said: “People get the wrong idea about Govanhill. There’s beauty here.”

Nikola Baran, 15, said: “There are so many things you don’t look at, you would just step on them. I want to look at things more closely. Taking photographs makes you look closer.”

In this week’s Big Issue we spoke to one photographer, 15-year-old Laura Balogova. Speaking about the project she said: “I only know a few of my neighbours that I say hi to. Some of kids are so cute, so talkative. Others hide in their Mum’s coat and stuff and are really shy. There are other kids who come in and run up and down and play Knock Knock Ginger.”

As the world celebrates 100 years since some women were first granted the right to vote, we ask women you won’t find in the headlines to share their experience of ‘equality’ in Britain today.

Laura said: “I feel like the UK is a place where everybody is equal, mostly because there are so many people with the same cultural background. People get treated equally most of the time.

“I do feel judged because of my background because people just assume I am a bad person or think on the negative side of everything. That is separate to being judged as a woman – for example they think that women can’t do the same jobs as men just because you are “weak” or “too emotional” – but being judged because of your background and being judged because you’re a women are similar but very different.

Don’t judge people just because they are from something else

“Most women think that you need to wear make-up or you need to wear dresses and that you can’t work at certain places but in my opinion, women should be able to do anything they want and dress the way they want and just be them without listening to other people telling them how they are meant to be.

“The message I would have for those who judge Roma people is that you just need to listen to their story and look on the good side of stuff and not justthe bad. And don’t judge people just because they are from something else or being they are a different colour to you – just be nice to everyone.”

It’s clear today, that 100 years after the right to vote was won, some women are more equal than others. In this week’s Big Issue we hear from the women striving for equality, still.

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