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St Marie de la Mer Gypsies

St Marie de la Mer – Every year the Carmargue is host to a series of festivals celebrating various aspects of the region’s complex history. The celebration of the miracles of Saint Marie de la Mer are rather unique: gypsies from all over Europe come together for three days and it is quite an event. It is purported that for this very specific three days all feuds are held at bay and there is an agreement of “no killing”. You get an idea of the flavour of the experience.

In the build up, the villages around are host to encampments with all their accompanying bad behaviour and local’s fury. The roads are choked with horses, caravans, characters and police. The beautiful white horses of the Carmargue are much in evidence, and in the middle of all of this there is a massive religious procession with cowboys joining the fray and an effigy of Saint Marie being dipped in the sea with all the mounted cowboys leading the way into the waves.

I spent three days there several years ago, with a Hasselblad and Ilford film, recording some of the travellers. It was a mighty experience. Far more testing than most I have captured.There were lots of amazing moments and several of the women were very feisty. To be able to photograph the woman in the doorway of her caravan I had to agree to dance with her. I said yes, and she gathered 100’s of her friends to witness the dance. It went well, I can Flamenco, and I got to take the picture.  The woman in the lace dress with the cigarette was quite stunningly beautiful and her outfit was bright red….

These women have great power over their men and if I wanted to photograph a man I had to find his wife and gain her consent which did not always go well. The last straw was one women pulling a gun on me as she thought I had an ulterior motive. It was terrifying and I knew she meant it. But she was talked down and I live to tell the tale.