Silver 2010 Portraiture / Family

The Donovans

  • Company
    None
  • Photographer
    Gina Brocker

This body of work depicts the rapid transition from child to adult for the Donovans, a family of Irish Travellers. Due to their alternative lifestyle, the transition into adulthood is expedited. Once the comforts of childhood diminish expectations are met and roles are filled. This transition is not independent to the Traveller Community; instead it is something most can empathize with. The photographs allow the viewer to experience each individualâ??s world, showing moments of their everyday life in an intimate light.

This body of work depicts the rapid transition from a child to an adult and all that comes with it, for The Donovans, a family of Irish Travellers. I found myself in Ennistymon, as I heard there was a market on this particular Tuesday. This was a very good reason for the journey as it was my sixth week during the summer of 2002 in Ballyvaughan, a small harbor village on the West coast of Ireland consisting of four pubs and one Spar. Once I had thoroughly inspected the three stands that comprised the market, I set out to see what else Ennistymon had to offer. I ventured up a hill to get a closer look at a small, cramped cemetery. Soon after I arrived in the cemetery, several dogs rushed toward me and following behind were several children hollering for the dogs to come back. As I was crouched down petting the dogs, I asked the children what the dogs’ names were. Shocked by my strange accent, they ignored the question and wanted to know where I was from. When I responded that I was from the United States, I was immediately labeled as a New Yorker and this was all too exciting for them. The children rushed me into their previously out of view caravan site to show me their lamb and ponies. Moments later, a few mothers came over and within seconds I was welcomed for tea to tell them about my life in New York. After explaining that I grew up in Michigan and was currently living in Baltimore where I would visit New York occasionally, I lost a bit of my fame, but was welcomed all the same. I made it a point to return as this secret circle of energy and chaos captivated me. As a photographer, I was aching to retrieve my camera from my bag within seconds of meeting them; however, I knew I was in a special situation that needed to be handled patiently and with care. A few visits later, once I had established a level of familiarity with the group of families, I began photographing the animals and showing the children how to take a photograph. Once this caught wind, children were yanked back into the caravans to get their hair fixed and to replace their play shirt for their Sunday best. Each family then stood in a group outside their caravan ready for their portrait. The following week I brought the photographs back for them and I suppose that was when the level of trust for my camera and myself was established.