Roma journeys: Work by Joakim Edkildsen and Josef Koudelka

Roma journeys

The work by Joakim Edkildsen I find evocative and good documentary photography. I Found that it connected me to quite a strong sense of the people and the places as he contextualised very well the predominant portrait work.

Edkildsen shows strong commitment in his work, travelling extensively to strange lands to meet a peoples that are not that often documented. I had once thought of a similar project myself. Having gone to the extent of learning the language of the Roma also suggests that a photographer’s role in a project like this might go way beyond the bounds of a normal remit.

The style and consistency of the presentations is good: black and white panoramic images to start followed by a vertical drop down lay out (on the website). The compositions are strong, seem very natural (although sometimes not with great focus) and evoke a sense of the people. There is something enigmatic about the Roma, partly because of their history and physical placement within society.

As a note of reflection and comparison I found the images of Eskildsen far more powerful as documents than those of Close, in the previous analysis. This might be because of the subject matter. But I think that there is something more which I assume has to do with the engagement of the photographer with his subject. As stated by Edkildsen:

 ‘We always tried to spend a considerable length of time among the people whom we wanted to learn about and, if possible, to live with them for a while’.  (Edkildsen, 2000-2001) [1]



Discussion between the work of Edkildsen and Koudelka

Starting with the aesthetics of the two bodies of work, Koudelka has a close range aesthetic that seems more intimate with the subject. His work is sometimes posed, sometimes more spontaneous and often follows traditional rules of composition balancing the frames, using rule of thirds and perhaps generally more dynamic in its composition than that of Edkildsen. The intention behind the work of Koudelka seems to be to be among the Roma and portray an image of liveliness and edginess-aliveness. Koudelka seems to have enjoyed close interaction with the subjects even though it was stated that he risked his life to photograph the gypsies. On the other hand another interpretar says:

‘Koudelka’s stark images depict the simplicity of Gypsy life, but he does not present their situation as a social problem that should somehow be fixed.’ (moon)[4]

This suggests that there was no such danger in his interactions with the gypsy community and indeed, looking at the photos they suggest quite the opposite: a warm interaction and connection to the people.

Edkildsen also display the intimacy and respect that does Koudelka, however, his images seem somewhat more contemplative. His photos are in colour as opposed to the grainy and intense in cases, tonal qualities that Koudelka prints out via his work. Edkildsen seems to have the intention to portray the problem side of the gypsies as a group of outsiders. Whilst this does not always seem the case in the photos, the general explanation of his work describes this. However, in the photos in both sets seems to display a remarkable sense of ease in the people and no sense of being dissatisfied with their lot. No doubt they did want to be accepted, as group but the images in both set do not portray essentially a sense of plight and dejection, this victimising the subjects.


  1. Edkildsen, J. The Roma Journeys (2000-2001) [online] [accessed, April, 2020]
  2. Edkildsen, J. AladA at + 46AC Hevesaranyos The Roma Journeys (2000-2001) [online] [accessed, April, 2020]
  3. Koudelka, J. Gypsies (1991) [accessed, April 2020]
  4. Moon, [online] [accessed, April 2020]

Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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