A Portrait of Irish Travellers in the 1970s
Documentary-Photos, London, 2013. 153 pp., 83 black & white photographs.
Irish Travellers play an important but often overlooked role in Irish culture. In this evocative and memorable book, Janine Wiedel transports us to the heart of the Tinker (now called Traveller) community of the 1970s. The book presents photographs and words amassed over the course of a five-year study of this resilient people at a crucial moment in their history. As their skills of tinsmithing, flower-making and spoon-mending, became redundant to 20th century needs, their traditional nomadic lifestyle was also under threat from the centralising force of the Irish Government.
Wiedel’s engaged photographs provide an enduring record of a vanishing world. Accompanied by the Travellers’ words we gain insight into a people in transition. Caught between nostalgia for a vanishing past and an uncertain future, concern over loss of traditional values and a fatalistic acceptance of present difficulties, the book provides a wider meditation on the history of 20th century development. Throughout, however, Wiedel succeeds in capturing the independence, pride and sheer endurance that have secured the Travellers’ survival across the centuries. A compassionate study and poetic and memorable work, the iBook hopes to deepen understanding of this fascinating people.