The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay
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Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
April 2014 issue
In 2000 I moved from Boston to Ireland; in the taxi from Shannon Airport I caught a tantalizing glimpse of a long row
of caravans and white vans on the roadside. As we passed, I saw a cacophony of life; mothers and daughters
attending to morning chores, teenage boys burning rubbish, scantily clothed children, large black and white ponies,
hand-washed clothes drying on makeshift clothes lines. There was so much activity and visual life that this memory
remained with me. I spent the following 10 years meeting with the travellers, and in 2010 I started to document their
As a fine-art black and white documentary photographer since 1990, photographing the Irish Travellers filled me with
excitement, a sense of adventure and the challenges of something I recognized as a long-term project. My first
challenge was to gain the trust of these unique people who are discriminated against harshly by society. I was
regarded by them as a "settled person", and was treated with apprehension, suspicion, and curiosity. But never with
Over time I attended many of their fairs and annual events and they began to recognize me. Certain families would
invite me into their homes for tea and began to delight in having their picture taken. Travellers are very proud of their
culture and it is this dignity that I sought to represent. I wanted to photograph these people with their hearts and
There were obstacles; I am deaf and verbal communication was difficult. Despite my aptitude as a lip reader, people
in Ireland, not just the travellers, tend to speak very quickly. In order for me to lip read they have to look straight at me
and despite their outward brashness there is shyness in them. Yet, when the camera is pointed at them all
Using a medium format camera, a Hasselblad, I am able to make large prints with definitive detail, as I feel it’s
important to document every detail with as much precision as possible. Also, as with all my portraits on different
themes in the past, cropping the images is avoided. I include the original film’s rebate in order to show honest imagery.
It allows the viewers to see exactly what I see through the viewfinder of my camera when I press the shutter.
To date, the Irish Travellers has become the largest and one of the most interesting theme I have produced in my
three decades as a photographic artist. In my work with the travelling community I have been documenting several
clans; my goal is to continue to work with these families as well as other members that I encounter on this rich and
by Joseph-Philippe Bevillard
Caravan Children, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Elizabeth with horse, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Frank Dodd, Spancilhill, Clare 2011.
'Frida', Spancilhill, Clare 2011.
Grandfather with two grand-daughters, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Kathleen with puppy; Travellers, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Mother with long braid and child, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Murphy Sisters, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011
Pony Hair, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Mother and child, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Two young men, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Standing Proud, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
Man on ramp, Spancilhill, Clare 2011.
Two girls with costume, Ballinasloe, Galway 2013.
Twins, Ballinasloe, Galway 2013.
Children with umbrella, Ballinasloe, Galway 2011.
White Cape, Ballinasloe, Galway 2013.