It is the quiet moments that make up a woman’s day: lighting the first fire, brushing a child’s hair, washing dishes, hunting for wood in the forest. At first glance, these repeated gestures can appear meaningless. A rich tapestry is revealed when such events are woven together. A soup bowl is filled, washed and put away. Noodles are deftly rolled out, cut and consumed. A floor is swept and swept again.
These are the fleeting moments I seek in my photographs. So often women are lost in their daily domestic tasks and, as a woman, I wanted to pay a small homage to them. In their homes, evidence of a woman’s hand is everywhere: a piece of lace hangs over a tattered cabinet, a tapestry covers over a hole in the wall, and cups and dishes are stacked neatly in a cabinet.
In my effort to document the lives of Roma women in Slovakia, I discovered that I had much to learn. There are mysterious nuances involved in cooking over a wood-burning stove, bathing in a tin tub, and washing clothes by hand. Quietly and as unobtrusively as possible, I endeavored to disappear into the fabric of family life. Graciously, these women opened their homes to a stranger and it was my great privilege to spend time with them.
Closely entwined with women are the lives of their children. Children are always underfoot demanding attention and much of a woman’s day is spent devoted to their care. For children, everything is an adventure. From the moment they tumble out of bed children spend their days hunting for wild berries, dancing, playing hopscotch, and throwing rocks. And as they grow, the responsibilities of adulthood slowly begin to weigh upon them. The older among them care for younger brothers, sisters and cousins. A walk in the forest becomes a hunt for wood, a search for food. After the fire is out, dishes are put away, and children are in bed, there are just a few hours of rest before it all begins again.
Julie Denesha is a freelance documentary photographer based in the Kansas City area. She currently works as a multimedia journalist for KCUR 89.3FM.
Julie graduated from The University of Kansas with degrees in Journalism and Russian Language and Literature. After college, she worked as a staff photographer for The Kansas City Star.
From 1996 to 2004, Julie was based in Prague, Czech Republic, where she covered Central and Eastern Europe for newspapers and magazines. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Time, News-week, The Economist and The Christian Science Monitor.
2006-2007 academic year, Fulbright Scholar, Slovakia. In 2007, Julie was awarded both a Fulbright and a Milena Jesenská Fellowship to continue her ongoing project on the Roma in Slovakia. Her project on the Roma was featured in an exhibit of the Roma at the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia, The World Bank in Brussels, Belgium, The Half King Gallery in New York, and The Institute For Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria.