The Irish travellers in Finglas.
All photos: Sebastian Franco
Culture

Photos from Two Years of Living with Irish Travellers

Photographer Sebastiaan Franco documented a family's daily lives, and the funerals, weddings and fist-fights they included.
02 March 2020, 12:07pm

This article was originally published on VICE Belgium.

Sebastiaan Franco is a 27-year-old photographer from Luxembourg who lived with Irish travellers in Finglas, on the outskirts of Dublin, for two years.

Travellers in Ireland used to rely on seasonal agriculture jobs, but these have dried up in recent years. This, along with the Irish government pressuring travellers to assimilate with the 1998 Housing Act, has forced many families to settle down in suburbs like Finglas.

Franco's interest in the Irish traveller community – which has suffered historic prejudice – is what brought him to Ireland. The photographer says people were wary of him at first, until one day he was invited to one of the families' trailers. "We started drinking some cider – one, then two, then three glasses," he explains. "I woke up the next day in the wrong caravan with the worst hangover of all time. Suddenly, I was one of them."

At a local pub.

Franco says many travellers' lives are "made up of extremes", where not much happens on any given day, but when something does happen, it's worth photographing.

There are also a few social norms within the community that are hard to find outside of it. For example: fistfights are a normal way to resolve arguments between families. Usually recorded, to prevent disputes later on, these fights must adhere to certain rules: fighters have up to six months to prepare, and each can choose one referee each, as well as agreeing to a third.

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Over his time photographing the community, Franco grew close to a number of people – particularly uncle Paddy, who he met that first drunken evening. "I really love that man," he says. "If something happened to him, I don't know what I'd do."

After he left, Franco published his photographs in a book titled Anásha a name suggested by one of the people he met there, which means "pay attention" in the language spoken by Irish travellers, De Gammon.

Scroll down to see more pictures in the book.

Uncle Paddy.

Martyboy, one of the first travellers Franco met.

Bride Cherish on her wedding day. Couples tend to marry quite young, sometimes as teens.

A traditional fistfight, with rules. Fighters have up to six months to prepare. They pick one referee each and agree on a third.

Bonfire night, an Irish Halloween tradition.

Avila Park in Finglas.

Big Davis and Bulls Paddy.

The community at a funeral. Most Irish travellers are Catholic.

Bridesmaids Dina, Louise and Katelynn.

Davy Handsome's trailer.

Johnny Keenan.

A catholic Communion celebration – with a Hummer limo. Left to right: Charlie, John, Eileen, Michael James, Patrick.

Paddy, his gun and his friends.

A young man carrying scrap copper. Lots of travellers trade scrap metal for money.

St. Joseph's park in Finglas.