The Travellers

Photography by Birte Kaufmann

My project “The Travellers” gives insight into the everyday life of one of Ireland’s largest minority group. This group has a nomadic origin, stemming from the tradition of migrant workers. As this tradition no longer exists, the travellers are looking for a new identity within the Western Euro- pean society of the twenty-first century. The travellers live in a kind of parallel world with rules all its own and traditional gender roles, a world to which outsiders have little access. Both the travellers’ traditions and their way of life are so different that they are met with little acceptance by the rest of the Irish society. To this day, some traveller families live by the roadside illegally—mostly without electricity, running water or sanitation, even though the government has provided halting sites for the travellers where they can stay with their caravans. I travelled to Ireland with a VW bus in order to photograph the travellers for the first time in 2011. I wanted to capture the travellers’ way of life and their values in pictures. In doing so, I did not want to romanticize them, but rather show their everyday life. Theirs is a life where people still hunt rabbits and where horses play a vital role. But it is also a life that contains hardship and boredom from an early age. Since my first encounter with the travellers, I have kept in touch with one large family. Over time, I have gained their trust. Consequently, I was allowed to live with them so that I and my camera became part of their daily lives.


Birte Kaufmann

Birte Kaufmann is a reportage, documentary and portrait photographer in Germany. She is a member of Deutsche Fotografische Akademie and the recipient of the CNN Journalist Award 2014.

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