Iain McKell has spent the last ten years documenting the lives of New Age travellers and “Modern Romantics”.
From skinheads and punks to Blitz Kids and rockabillies, rarely has a subculture emerged in the last 30 years that hasn’t been captured by McKell, a photographer who combines a documentary style with sharp insight, drawing his viewer’s attention to the different and unfamiliar. McKell first became acquainted with travelling communities in 1986 when he was photographing the ‘Peace Convoy’, the infamous travelling protest group and thorn in Thatcher’s side. “It was punk and anarchy against a landscape of nature and beauty. They were reinventing the British dream,” he explains. In 2001, McKell attended the annual summer solstice, and what he saw was not a ‘hippy’ lifestyle, but a hard-working community that lived in horse-drawn wagons, raised children and lived a simple, nomadic existence. Instantly fascinated, McKell spent the next ten years photographing these individuals, a collection of images that form his latest book ‘The New Gypsies’.
McKell describes his portraits as “shamelessly romantic. My interest is in their faces, their souls and their stories,” he explains. “I wanted to capture them showing warmth and affection.” McKell’s images include shots of adults, children, wagons and “global gypsy” Kate Moss. “I think that gypsy wanderlust is in Kate’s soul”, says McKell. “She wanted to experience the romantic idea of running off with their community.” Through his work, McKell hopes to change the prejudice towards travelling communities. “I want to open up peoples’ minds”, he confirms. “People are scared of what they don’t understand. It comes naturally to me as a photographer to see people for who they really are.”
‘The New Gypsies’ is available now at selected UK bookstores published by Prestel priced £24.99 , an exhibition of the images is open now until the end of May at the London Collage Of Fashion.