Kate and the Gypsies
”Kate & the Gypsies”, first published in V magazine #61, September 2009 © Ian McKell
In september 2009 V magazine published a fashion story featuring Kate Moss called ”Kate and the Gypsies”. The story was shot by the british photographer Ian McKell who has been following the ”The New Gypsies” for over ten years. The images and his latest book can be seen at Acte2 gallery in Paris until the 15th of november.
Fashion and social documentary photographer, Iain McKell has tracked and befriended a ”small tribe” of New Gypsies for over ten years. But it is 25 years since he took his first series of photographs of the same tribe, six of which were to remain with him.
Here, starting with the six that he calls ”the precursors, the ancestors, the history of The New Gypsies”, his lens captures their personalities, way-of-life and their ideals.
The Summer Solstice in 1985 witnessed the new phenomenon of New Age Travellers in the ”Peace Convoy”, double-decker buses ”with DickensIain characters sporting battered top-hats and VictorIain frock-coats” – ”gangs of urban subcultures let loose in a rural setting”. Margaret Thatcher sent police to ”de-commission” their convoys the following year. From those beginnings have evolved the New Gypsies.
Now ”horse-drawn”, the New Gypsies sport elaborately decorated caravans and share a desire for freedom and the open road, selfrelIaince and a disdain for the trappings of contemporary life. However, these new nomads are also driven by their desire for sustainability in today’s world; they embrace technology, a grapevine watered by the latest gadgets and solar power. Their roaming existence is probably greener than any other element in society.
Iain McKell’s photographs of this new group of itinerants reveal his deep-seated attraction to both the people and the lifestyle, and betray mixed perceptions of a romantic life coupled with a hard one. The women exude a ragged glamour; the male subjects have a harder edge. But every photo is permeated with a wistfulness and sense of being a proud outsider. The journeys of the New Gypsies are built around a yearly map of festivals and celebrations and much of their time is spent poring over Ordnance Survey maps. McKell’s photographs map the seasons of the horse- drawn travellers’lives – from primeval celebrations of summer to the interiorised life of wintertime.
In the book ”The New Gypsies” (Prestel, 2011) professor Val Williams, Director of The University of the Arts London Research Centre for Photography and the Archive, places Iain McKell’s photography within the context of his own oeuvre, marrying his skills and disciplines of both documentary portraiture and fashion photography and showing the cross over from the gloss of the advertising campaign to the self-initiated documentary project.
Williams writes that McKell “combines the sublimity of fashion photography with the enquiring edge of documentary”. His The New Gypsies “raises many questions about the borderlines between fashion photography and documentary” and is “a fascinating combination of both ancient and modern – imbued with ambiguous glamour and beguiling characters beyond our own experience.”
Born in Dorset England, Iain McKell studied at Exeter College of Art before moving to London to start his career. He has contributed to The Face, i-D, The Observer, Sunday Times, Independent, WSJ, The Telegraph, Vogue UK, French Vogue, Italian Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue, V magazine, Zoo,Tank and Black Book.
Working in fashion and portraits, he published his first book in 2004 called ”Fashion Forever” documenting British and American counter culture youth movements from Hip Hop to Trance Jungle parties.
Ian McKell ”New Gypsy”
41 rue d’Artois 75008 Paris
October 13th - November 15th 2011
”The New Gypsies” by Ian McKell is published by Prestel