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The gypsies are part of my life. When I was a young kid my mother was telling me "if you are not a nice boy the gypsies will take you with them" They were a lot in the city in May because on the 14th they come to the pilgrimage celebrating Sarah, their goddess.

At the end of the World War II, my home was destroyed and we move to the gypsies streets, where I grew up in the middle of the parents of the one who became the Gypsy Kings.

I was fascinated by the social organization of this people living in house during the winter time, and in caravan the rest of the year, no representation of dead people, no past, no future.

Going every year to the pilgrimage I became close friend to some tribes, and was accepted to photograph their intimate. One day I found a family from the North, very "Flemish's" out of painting by Jeronimus Busch, I couldn't believe. As I was poor I put my film in my camera only if I took very interesting. Suddenly I realize it was incredible and they are at the end of my book now.

This is were I discovered Manitas de Plata. I had some of his photographs at the show Edward Steichen gave me at the Museum of Modern art in New York, in 1961. A record company manager visiting the show ask me "is there Manitas de Plata?" "Yes, here and there, and again in this picture" "OK, I want to record him, could you help me?" And this is how I became manager of one of the stars of the sixties, performing at the UN, 14 times at the Carnegie Hall, and recording four CDs.

The poet Jean Cocteau was painting a chapel in Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice. After seeing my photographs, he decided to use them for some of the frescoes of St. Peter.

He wrote a foreword for a book to be published. But we were not happy with the layout. No book. I had to wait 40 years to publish the body of work with his text. But now the gypsies are accepted and my book will give them a chance to see how were looking their ancestors.

Lucien Clergue, May, 1997.

Lucien Clergue can be reached at marval@marval.com

Les Gitans, Marval Collection, Pour la Mémoire,France, 1996. http://www.marval.com

California Museum of Photography, Exhibition of Nudes by Lucien Clergue http:////www.cmp.ucr.edu

Soleil des Saintes-Maries by Manitas de Plata (solo Manitas) SBK Songs 1978. ©1995, Sony Music Entertainment (France) S.A.