It’s easy to get wrapped up in our modern concerns, from the new iPhone to troubles in the car industry. The world is moving a mile a minute and technology is moving faster. But people all over the world are choosing to abandon the fast pace and opt instead for a simpler way of life.
Some have become part of a new breed of nomads in Europe. They travel the countryside without modern transportation, stopping for short amounts of time (usually illegally), before saddling up and moving on.
Unrelated to the Roma people, many of these folks have lived in caravans pulled by horses since the 1980s, inspired by the anarchic and punk ethos that flourished in England at that time. In his recent book, “The New Gypsies,” veteran photographer Iain McKell presents a beautiful series of photographs documenting this ragtag community.
McKell began photographing the group in 1985 when he saw them on TV participating in a standoff with the police at Stonehenge. He got a press pass and went into the camp, where he spoke with people and took portraits. McKell says he was interested in the juxtaposition of counterculture against a backdrop of beautiful nature.
Sixteen years later, McKell decided to start documenting them again in an effort to get out of the city and work on something new. “Initially, they thought I was a tourist,” he tells Business Insider. But eventually, he won them over with prints of his work and a bottle of Jack Daniels. He would photograph them for the next nine years.
McKell says that these new-age nomads make money working festivals around Europe. “They’re not in your face, there’s no posturing. They do their thing quietly, 24/7,” McKell explains. “They have fully bought in to being free.”
The nomads especially reject the world’s dependency on oil-burning modes of transportation, doing so by travelling by horse only. He tells us that they love the slow lifestyle.
They have a deep respect for their animals. McKell adds that when they are travelling, the horses pull the wagons and the people walk beside them instead of riding them. “They understand that humans are just another animal,” McKell says.
And they haven’t rejected all technology. Many have portable phones and laptops. McKell recalls a time when he sat with a group of the travellers inside a caravan and watched a popular British television show.
The travellers and the scene they create is so visually striking that, along the way, McKell was commissioned to shoot supermodel Kate Moss hanging out with the travellers for V Magazine.
McKell says that he is often asked about the children living in these camps. He explains that they have a unique time and learn to work hard, but that they are educated and are never mistreated.
They play chess, read, draw, and create their own games.
McKell recalls a time when he walked with a young girl who listed off all the names of the flowers they encountered on the trail. “They’re more connected to nature,” McKell says.
For McKell, the project was a way of looking into another world, or a “tribe” as he puts it, one different from his own. He says he was an observer, “documenting something important.”
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