Living along country lanes in tents and barrel-top wagons, Travellers have for centuries been a people apart from Irish society. Photographer Mathias Oppersdorff first encountered them twenty-eight years ago in County Kerry at Puck Fair. His photographs—often stark and disturbing, yet always humane—offer a profound look at people at the crossroads of their existence.
Although the Travellers themselves now concede that education and settling down are important factors for a good future, the pull of tradition is strong; many Travellers miss the open road and are ill at ease leaving a life that, for centuries, has been uniquely theirs.
Oppersdorff’s photographs take us through some of the most turbulent times for the Travellers. Although in years past they were defined by their nomadism, more recently many have chosen to live in housing projects and trailer parks, partially due to government-sponsored subsidies. As a result, traditional roadside tent-camps are a thing of the past.
The photographer states that the themes revolving around the human condition are his forte. When some of his earlier photographs of the Travellers first appeared in a one-man show in New York City, A. D. Coleman wrote in The New York Times, “[Oppersdorff] is an honest and gutty photographer with much to say.”
Mathias Oppersdorff has worked for the last eighteen years as a travel photographer for Gourmet magazine. In addition to photographing Irish Travellers, he has done an extensive photographic study on the Arabian Peninsula. His previous book, Adirondack Faces, was published by Syracuse University Press and the Adirondack Museum.
8.5 x 10, 86 pages, 63 black and white illustrations