When I first saw Eugenia Maximova‘s ‘Little Maggie’s Sweet Home’ photo series, I questioned whether it romanticizes poverty. And for a good reason. In black and white, little Maggie hiding here and there, a lost house in between flats. It almost seems like a game, like an alternative to the flats that surround the ruined house. And the truth is that the story behind the photos is anything but romantic.
But the more I thought about it, the more I concluded there’s no better way to tell Maggie’s story; it cannot be more touching and more honest than this. There’s simply no other way to tell a story like this.
There have been many portrayals of the Roma (wrote about it here) and especially when portraying the children, the photos contrast them being kids with the misery they live in. I think in general, the subject of the Roma in Europe has been used and abused. No one will listen to it anymore if you dramatize it or if you squeeze emotions. There’s still something and probably will always be in creating the charm of looking into the lives of the marginalized. But how far can that go to change the hearts of many? And even though Maximova’s photos have a tiny bit of all that, her photo story tells something universal. She portrays little Maggy and at the same time captures the tiny glitters of her everyday life, a certain intimate feel that cancels the contrast between poverty and innocence and tells an honest story. An universal one. And yet so personal.
People have to love little Maggie. It’s the only way. And I cannot imagine how on earth they might not love her.
The story is about this four year old girl and her family. They gypsies, they live in Bulgaria in a city called Rusa. The family composed by a single mother named Nadka, Maggie-the-four-year-old and her five brothers and sisters. The mom first got pregnant at the age of 16 under circumstances she prefers not to speak about and after getting pregnant she was forced to leave the orphanage where she grew up. Ever since then she’s been living in this abandoned ruin in the central part of the city. She is now 34. There is no water and no electricity in this ruin. Every now and then the mother can get some fresh water from a nursing home nearby. They all live out of 125 euros a month in a country where prices are almost equal to the European average.
Nadka always dreamed of a big family. And she has one but one living way below the poverty line. Social services threaten to take her children and put them in an orphanage if the family’s financial situation does not improve. And if that happens, the vicious circle will be complete. Maggie will grow up in an orphanage, just like her mother did.