Since 2009, Swedish photographer Åke Ericson has been documenting the everyday lives of Roma people across Europe. The resulting photographs create an honest portrait of a community ‘Non Grata’. Latin for “undesirable” or “not welcome” Ericson’s title suggests the discrimination many Roma face in daily life due to their last name or complexion. These photographs will be published for the first time in this new book, Non Grata, to coincide with an exhibition of the project at Atelier für Photographie, Berlin from 26 April – 24 May 2018 and at La Moulinette Gallery, Paris from 20 September – 7 October 2018.
‘In the summer of 2009 I found myself in the city of Breclav in the south of the Czech Republic. Here I learned that the mayor had evicted two Romani families from their homes – in a city where they had lived for several generations – to make space for a new shopping mall in their neighbourhood… This was the beginning of my documentary photographic project about the Romani people of Europe and their living conditions. They often live outside of society without human rights: social, political, cultural and economic. My aim with this photographic series is to reach beyond the clichéd image of the Romani. I do not only want to show the repression and misery under which great numbers of Romani live. My story is also about the Romani who are integrated in European everyday life.’ Åke Ericson
The Romani people have held a long fascination to photographers and countless series of work have been produced on the estimated 10-12 million Roma population of Europe. Ericson’s project differs from the many through its scope, duration and ambition. So far, Ericson has documented the lives and struggles of the Roma people in France, Serbia, Kosovo, Romania, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Spain and Switzerland – twice the number of countries included in Josef Koudelka’s landmark photographic essay on the Roma 50 years ago.
Non Grata journeys from settlements such as Lunix IX outside Kosice in Eastern Slovakia to areas of Spain where Romani children attend regular school and can climb the socio-economic ladder, and Romani culture is large accepted by much of the population. Ericson attempts to show not only the reality of a displaced community but also the positivity and creativity which exists within.
Åke Ericson (1962) was born in Västerås, Sweden. His first picture was published when he just 14 years old and he began working as a photographer at the age of 16. After 12 years at local newspapers in Sweden, he moved to Scandinavia’s largest newspaper, Aftonbladet, where he worked for 10 years, before becoming freelance in 2000. He is affiliated with Aurora Photos in New York and his photography has been published in CNN, Newsweek, Paris Match, Le Figaro, Stern and Le Monde, and he has worked with Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross amongst others. His work has been the subject of nearly 20 solo exhibitions and he is the recipient of numerous awards including Press Photographer of the Year, Sweden in 2008