Project info

For the past 11 year, I have been photographing the Irish Travellers with a black and white film medium format camera but 3 years ago I started taking their portrait with a digital camera.
With a history dating back to pre-Celtic times the Irish Travellers are recognised as an ethnic group in Ireland, and sometimes referred to as tinkers or gypsies by settled people but this is politically incorrect. The Irish Travellers are not connected to Romany gypsies. Irish Travellers often refer to themselves as Pavee or Mincéirs, this is a term used among the Travellers. Their culture and nomadic way of life distinguishes them from the 'settled' population. The Traveller population in Ireland is estimated between 35,000 and 40,000, but is less than 1% of the population. In general, they are raised as Roman Catholics; girls are married between 15 and 19 and are expected to be virgins; large families of 7 to 14 children are common and I know a mother who had 23 children and another had 26. To curb "squatting" on private land, official 'Halting' sites are provided for their caravans throughout Ireland. Some Travellers provide useful services such as collecting scrap metal and doing tarmacadam jobs as they move through towns, but many find it hard to secure work as they are disliked by many settled people, their style of dress, lack of education due to being on the move, and the occasional feud between clans often results in discrimination by the larger population. The suicide rate is at least 6 times higher among Travellers than in the general populations due to bullying, discrimination and lack of employment. Most Travellers leave school before the age of 14. Many are illiterate. Half of the Travellers have a high mortality rates, many die before the age of 39. The diminishing traditions of the Travellers have forced them to seek new identities within the modern Western European society of the 21st century. Many Travellers are no longer nomadic and losing their identities as halting sites and temporary transitional areas are not plentiful and many have such poor facilities, the younger Travellers are moving into houses, and some move abroad. To date, law-makers and activists are fighting for their rights and their ethnicity.
To conclude I feel grateful that the travelling community has let me into their world and I feel I have built up a good rapport with them and they have trust in me, I respect their way of life, I document what I see through the lens, I see and feel their suffering, and I hope by sharing these images, others will understand their way of life and not pass judgement.