RETHINK: GYPSIES AND TRAVELLERS Of all the communities living in the UK today, Travellers are among the least understood. “People can never seem to get their heads around the fact that being Gypsy is nothing to do with where you live. People always ask: ‘How can you call yourself a Traveller if you were brought up in a house?’ But not all Gypsies live in trailers and not all Travellers travel. It’s not to do with where you live – it’s more about your beliefs and culture.” – Lucy Ann, 24. Sensationalist media reporting creates and reinforces negative stereotypes of these diverse groups – which include Romani Gypsies and Scottish and Irish Travellers – and their voices are rarely given the prominence they deserve. Travellers have been misrepresented throughout history. More recently, cliches such as the fortune-telling Gypsy have given way to tax-dodging, crime and unauthorised encampments in the popular imagination. Some claim their children are now getting bullied more in school and that they are more likely to be refused entry to clubs or other entertainment venues and to be turned away if hawking services door to door. From my own limited experience I can attest that the show and its aftermath has also made some Travellers less willing to engage with outsiders, especially those wielding a camera – and who can blame them? In such a climate it is crucial that photographers work with Gypsies and Travellers to present a more nuanced and realistic portrayal of their lives, in order to show that these groups are to be neither feared nor ridiculed. This year the Channel 4 show Big Fat Gypsy Weddings – which attracted around eight million viewers per episode – was widely criticised within Traveller These are ordinary people with ordinary communities for presenting a distorted, lives, but with a distinctive culture which cartoonish view of their cultures, and deserves respect. with it yet more damaging stereotypes.