Big Fat Gypsy Weddings / The story behind the posters { 97 images } Created 9 Feb 2012

The ASA ruled on 03/10/2012 that Channel 4 BFGW advertising campaign was irresponsible, offensive and reaffirmed negative stereotypes and prejudice against Travellers and Gypsies. The ASA banned the poster of the boy and the one with the two girls.

I am happy with the ASA decision although it puts me in a very uncomfortable situation. I was happy with the photos I provided to Channel 4 but, without my consent, they clearly mis-used them by adding this horrible slogan "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier." on them. They also cropped and reversed the photo of the two girls and therefore took it out of its party context. I am glad Channel 4 didn't get away with it.

Here is some background to the story behind the posters:

I have been taking pictures of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK for the last 9 years. Last December, Channel 4 hired me to do the promo shoots of their forthcoming Big Fat Gypsy Weddings programme (which started on the 14th of February) resulting in huge billboards all over the UK.

The brief I was given was appealing : C4 wanted me to work the way I usually do, spending time with people and shoot in a photojournalistic way, "the kind of 1970s Life Magazine style", they told me. They also added they wanted to be as far as possible from me to really let me work as I usually do and then get the most natural pictures.

I took the challenge and spent more than one month from sites to sites photographing Travellers who are featured in the TV show. They gave me a lot of their time and were very happy with the idea of appearing on big posters. Channel 4 ended up choosing 4 images and without telling me, they printed the controversial "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier." slogan on my pictures.

Within days, more than 300 complaints were sent to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) against Channel 4 by members of the public and the Traveller community saying the billboards campaign was offensive and racist. On the 22nd of February, the ASA cleared C4. "We did not consider the ads were likely to cause serious or widespread offence or be seen as irresponsible or harmful and will not therefore be taking any further action," the ASA said in a statement.

Even though I am not responsible for the slogan, its use on my pictures puts me in a very uncomfortable position and is prejudicial to my work with Gypsies, Travellers and organisms representing them and more generally to my reputation.

Anyway, behind the posters some of you have probably seen or at least heard of, I would like to give you an insight of the life of the Gypsies and Travellers I met when I was working on this campaign. For those watching the show, you'll recognise some familiar faces, backstage !
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