In Rome we were honored to collaborate with anthropologist Adriana Goni Mazzitelli at University of Rome III and Professor Marco Brazzoduro, who introduced us to the communities relegated to the impoverished Roma camps of Salviati and Salone outside of the outer ring road in Rome. Utilizing photography as a tool to connect UW students and Roma and non-Roma youth, we focused on our shared identities as sons and daughters, students, and photographers. The Roma youth had the chance to visit the University of Washington Rome Center for a photography session, and University of Washington students had the chance to visit the camps, meet the residents there, and experience the community for themselves – an experience that was useful to dispel a host of essentializing stereotypes commonly espoused by Italians. This experience also illuminated what it means to the Roma people that the municipalities define these camps as “permanent housing,” blocking Roma families from access to proper social housing. UW students also had the chance to visit the homes of non-Roma families in Rome. We are grateful for their openness, support and participation.
The program culminated in a photography exhibit and dinner at the Michele Testa CentroCulturale – a community center near the camps. The photo exhibition gave us a chance to honor the work of these young photographers by exhibiting their photographs and providing a forum for their friends and families to mingle together in a celebratory public forum. University of Washington students cooked the meal with Roma women, created and mounted the photography exhibition, made photo journals with the youth, and wrote reflective letters, (T.I.P.S. letters – the inspiring conceptual brainchild of Anu Taranath), about their experiences, selections of which were translated and included in the exhibit. The exhibit, titled “There’s no place like home” was attended by a political representative of the municipality and provided a chance for him to see the Roma camps through American eyes. One of the UW student quotes he admired in the exhibit was, “I can’t imagine being born into a country that keeps me down, saying it’s in the best interest of the nation.”
Literacy Through Photography (LTP) is a teaching philosophy and methodology that encourages children to explore their world as they photograph scenes from their own lives and to use their images as catalysts for verbal and written expression. Framed around universal themes such as self-portrait, community, family, and dreams, LTP provides children and teachers with the expressive and investigative tools of photography and writing for use in the classroom. Together with Roma youth from Salone and Salviati camps, we created as our introductory project together ethno-photography pieces, including “Best Part of Me”, and “Hopes and Dreams” We then shared our hopes and dreams together as a group, with the help of translators.
We chose There’s No Place Like Home as the theme for our final photography exhibit together because the dreams of our new Roma partners centered on escaping the impoverished camps and finding hope in employment and permanent housing.
“Despite the language barrier, we felt a connection to the young girls,
whether it was exchanging smiles or waves,
it was an experience we shared together.”
“The people were filled with such life and courage. It was amazing”