Since 2009, Joseph-Philippe Bevillard has been documenting Irish Travellers using a B&W medium format film camera.

By Balthazar Malevolent


In May 2018, I realized that I left my bag full of Hasselblad movie cameras and lenses on a train from Venice to Rome, that was an unfortunate incident. I still had the digital camera I was using for personal travel, and I said to myself, "Why not trying using a digital camera for my project of ambient portrait and street photography?" To be honest, I felt a little carried away with the technology that is so user friendly and convenient.

Irish Travellers By Joseph Philippe Bevillard.Irish Travellers By Joseph Philippe Bevillard.Irish Travellers By Joseph Philippe Bevillard.Irish Travellers By Joseph Philippe Bevillard.Irish Travellers By Joseph Philippe Bevillard.Irish Travellers By Joseph Philippe Bevillard.

I bought another Hasselblad and more lenses after my return from Italy, before going to Appleby Fair to document the travelers and gypsies, however, it turned out that I shot thousands of color images with my digital and just about a dozen or so with the B&W film.

Armed with a short wide-angle zoom lens and a quick 8 frames per second option, it allowed me to capture the people's spontaneous moments in their surroundings. I enjoy paying attention to the layers, space, composition, and spontaneity, as well as adding a mood to depict emotion and stories.

For the past ten years, Irish travelers have been the main topics in my project so my relationship with them has become very close. I had to earn their trust at first, and respect them. Travelers have shunned from the public for decades because of discrimination and media labeling. I would be giving them photos for their time, in exchange. Images are very valuable to them as the old ones have been lost or damaged as they move from one location to another.

There are so many things happening in traveling communities - suicide rates are higher and mortality rates are lower than among settled people due to health problems, poverty and discrimination. I feel there is more to learn about them; the have a fear of losing their culture and identity as the Irish Government seeks to make them fit into modern society. A small number of travelers prefer to settle in government-provided housing, but the majority like their nomadic culture and keep camping and traveling where they can.

This causes a lot of problems as some stopping sites are overcrowded, so the travelers often make illegal encampments on the side of the roads, the council has to get the police involved, this is a long-standing issue, yet to reach a solution to satisfy all parties.

PS. Can you imagine if designers such as Andre Courreges or Thierry Mugler got inspired by the Irish travelers' style? That kind of collection undoubtedly could be coherent with the nowadays' 2000s tendencies in fashion.

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