Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Professor Lawrence Mason
Professor Bruce Strong
Broadcast and Digital Journalism
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Ye People: A Photographic Account of Irish Travellers in Transition
Tradition is what links one generation to the next. It is a cause for pride, a sense of belonging, and a way of life. For Irish Travellers living in Dublin, this legacy is in jeopardy. Recent legislation by the Irish government has caused the Travelling community to re-evaluate its terms of existence. For a people who only knew a life on the road, the Housing Act of 1992, banning roadside encampments, has come as a devastating blow. What was once commonplace, has become a rarity. Gone is the sight of a caravan rolling down the lane, or a tinsmith working a piece of metal into a bucket. The “old days” are over, and the future for Irish Travellers lacks the promise of economic and cultural success
Early Travellers lived with their extended families and moved by horse and caravan across Ireland, selling crafts or working as tinsmiths to earn a living. But not all parts of Traveller life are as savory: drug use, suicide, and unemployment rates are also strikingly high compared to the rest of Ireland. These problems, according to Travellers, have been exacerbated by government inaction. In its failure to recognize them as a separate ethnic group or do anything to improve education and public service access, the inequitable status quo has remained as such. Many pubs and shops will not serve Travellers, and even public services such as hospitals and schools refuse to welcome them.
In Dublin, the unique characteristics of Traveller culture are not recognized as differences, but as flaws. The Traveller accent, nomadic lifestyle, and tradition of intermarriage are used as justifications for social alienation and widespread discrimination.
I produced a book of photographs and short essays, titled Ye People, to help rectify the injustices incurred by the traveling community. The purpose of this work is to draw commonalities between Travellers and greater society in order to generate public understanding and appreciation of their culture. I did so by photographing in the traditional documentary style, using black and white processing and simple compositions. This method helps to draw focus to the subjects’ facial expressions and to communicate the somber mood that describes the struggles of the traveling community. The book is broken up into four themed sections, each of which represent a key aspect of Traveller life, including: home, youth, work and protest.
My goal is to distribute copies of Ye People to Travellers’ human rights organizations throughout Ireland so that they may utilize it as a resource for educating visitors about Traveller history and culture.
Reiss, Mackenzie, "Ye People: Irish Travellers in Transition" (2011). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 236.
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