Istanbul's Dale Farm


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Istanbul's Dale Farm

I hung out with a bunch of gypsies in Istanbul as the government destroyed their homes to make way for yuppie condos.

In 2006, while hitchhiking from Europe to India, I got stuck in Istanbul while trying to secure visas in order to pass through Iran and Pakistan. It was at the height of nuclear tensions between the Bush White House and Ahmadinejad. I waited three months before the embassies said "no."

In the meantime, I settled in Istanbul, where I started photographing Europe's oldest settled Roma (Gypsy) community. The area and its residence were not unlike England's Dale Farm, which VICE has covered rather extensively in the past. I didn't speak any Turkish but I managed to win the trust (or sympathy) of the clan leader. Life was changing very rapidly for them as the government began destroying their homes with bulldozers protected by armored police in order to make way for yuppie condos.


It was an overnight gentrification, but what fascinated me were the basic everyday rituals of intimacy that seemed to act as a thread of cohesion in the midst of their chaos.

And yes, Balarama Heller is my real name.