Rooted in a lifestyle of nomadism dating back at least 1000 years, Irish Travellers today do not travel anymore. Originating in Ireland, Travellers consist of about 40,000 with large communities in the UK and US as well. Defined by their history of living on the road along with an impenetrably strong family-centric community, a particular attention to the Catholic Church, and their language “Cant”, Irish Travellers thrive within their own distinguished culture.
Though England recognizes Irish Travellers as a cultural minority, Ireland does not formally acknowledge the ethnic distinction between Irish Travellers and “settled” Irish. In an effort to remove Travellers from the road during the 1960’s, “halting sites” were built for the relocation of Traveller families. Though many still live in sites today, the economic prosperity during the era of the Celtic Tiger in the 1990’s gave some Travellers enough upward mobility to move on into independent houses. A seemingly positive change, the transition away from the road, away from their communal environment, and assimilation into “settled” Ireland, now presents many new challenges for Irish Travellers. Combined with the longstanding external oppression that Travellers face, this newly isolated lifestyle has lead to a dangerous degree of internal oppression within Traveller individuals. Constituting less than 1% of the Irish population, the suicide rate among Travellers in Ireland is now seven times higher than that of non-Traveller Irish citizens. In attempt to escape these struggles, many “assimilated” Travellers today choose to not identify with their culture in hopes of avoiding prejudice and remaining in competition for jobs.
Despite the rapid changes in lifestyle for Travellers recently, Irish Travellers remain rich with their own history and character. It is a captivating community that leaves every thought and emotion out on the line in their everyday fast-talking, quick-witted banter. Frequently tacked on at the end of a thought or statement in conversation, the title of this project comes from a colloquial phrase used by Irish Travellers to reverberate ideas, experiences, and their pride in the assured manner that defines them.
I arrived at this house on a Friday to meet the family of a bride-to-be whose wedding I would be photographing that Sunday. The bride’s grandmother - an unwaveringly strong, matriarchal figure of the family, asked if I would photograph her in front of her caravan. A bit suspicious of me at first, she warmed up a bit when I told her how much I loved her butterfly coat. She even let me try it on. About 30 minutes after I took this photograph, the son of the woman in the butterfly coat, the father of the bride, committed suicide. On Sunday, I found myself not at a wedding, but a wake.
Father and son, Patrick and Paddy, at their site in Monasterevin.
Historically, Irish Travellers have depended on horses as a staple of their livelihood. Their strong affection for horses carries on today, although modern laws limit Travellers’ rights to keep horses. Hiding the horses in various spots around their site, Patrick and Paddy kept two horses – one for each of them to take care of. The horse seen here belongs to the father, Patrick, whose struggle with schizophrenia is put to ease in working with the horse. About two weeks later this horse was taken away.
Marie, 17, hugging her niece, Shirley.
The first time I met Marie, she taught me just enough words in the Traveller language (Cant) to know when the others were talking about me. At the age of 15, Marie dropped out of school because she had still not been taught how to read or write. Last August, Marie and her sister, Anna, invited me to their cousin’s hen party. Anna dressed me and did my make-up for the event. When she had completed my look she told me, “Now, you’ve been Pavee-pimped!”
A group of lads playing a coin betting game at the site in Maynooth that I would visit every Friday before Zumba class with some of the girls living there. They asked if I wanted to play, but one of them wouldn’t let me because he didn’t want to take money from a girl. That day, me and the girls stayed in to chat and eat mint chocolate-chip ice cream instead of going to Zumba.
Micky Berry at his home in Labre Park - the first halting site built in Ireland.
Generations of Mickey’s family have been living on the site since it first opened in the late 1960’s. Later that afternoon, Mickey was off to help his son move into a new private house.
I regularly visited my local barbershop in Newport in November and December 2011. I came to know Symon the barber and his young assistant, Michael. The customers have always intrigued me, the working class local men coming in to have a haircut before heading to town for a night out.
These faces are the faces of Newport’s youth and future. These young men are used to portraying a hard façade to gain respect, and in order to be a ‘real man’. However, what I feel I have captured is their true feelings of their situation.
I started photographing gabbers a year and a half ago. I have always been intrigued by things that are ‘extreme’ or out of the ordinary - that is why I became fascinated with gabber, a subculture which is still vivid in Italy today.
I really enjoyed roaming around on the dance floor with my camera. It was such a great experience to feel invisible between the noise, the high volume, storms, colours and sweaty bodies. Here, in this chaotic world, I tried to steal the quiet and dreamy moments.
This last September I decided to go to Porthcawl (South Wales) to cover the annual Elvis Presley meeting. Along Coney Beach riverside, hundreds of Elvis lovers are walking and drinking, singing Suspicious Mind and other famous tunes. The majority of the audience is coming from the surrounding Valleys and Cardiff. There are authentic impersonators, who physically look like Elvis, but then there are also the everyday people, the (low budget Elvis') who wear wigs and cheap gold plastic sunglasses.
Porthcawl Festival is a platform for young Elvis impersonators to get their start and it is an honor to perform at this festival. There are famous Elvis impersonators who travel hours from the North of England for special performances. There are also the locals of Porthcawl who feel trapped by the festival and resent the loud partying and drinking. This work is a short term project which encapsulates the elements of British culture which I'm drawn to; People dress up as Elvis as a way of escaping the mundane of their lives. I deliberately took private photographs, isolating the subject on their own, from the often hectic setting. To continue this project I will go to Memphis in February to meet fans coming from all around the world to visit Graceland.
Worldwide access to the Internet and the emergence of an omnipresent social media is the defining spectacle of our time, with its reach expected to hit some 2.95 billion people, approximately one third of the Earth’s entire population, by 2020. It has never been easier to find like-minded people.
The Internet is beginning to shape the sexual culture of Britain. The vanguard of this movement is the growing number of people that are utilising online mediums to explore their sexual identities. Where those with an interest in BDSM, swinging and other “alternative” sexual lifestyles previously found it much harder to seek out like minded individuals, they can now, through online means, become part of the community of their choice with relative ease.
Sex Site is a rare and essential look into a world that, despite it’s emerging popularity, remains largely hidden from public view.
Shot over two years in London, Brighton, Poole and Bournemouth, the series features individuals and couples, all between the ages of 18-35, that Gibbons has sourced through sexually orientated social media platforms.
Photographed in their homes, the participants all utilise social media sex sites to engage in a variety of sexual endeavours including swinging, BDSM, daddy/little girl, cross-dressing (for the purpose of sexual enjoyment), and dogging.
The photographs, accompanied by reproductions of the graphically vernacular messages received by Gibbons and participants during the making of the project, contrast unfiltered sexual context with humanising and relatable portraiture.
Young Dubliners is a celebration of the unique character of Dublin’s youth. During a time of economic struggle in Ireland, a housing shortage in Dublin and austerity measures squeezing public services and domestic budgets, the young people of Ireland’s capital are championed in empowering portraits as they make the transition to adulthood.
These young Dubliners are at a time in their lives when they will make decisions that will affect their futures and may determine the course of their lives. Yet, they are subject to forces beyond their own control. Their futures, their fates, are not entirely in their own hands. They have already inherited circumstances of differing fortune and will inherit the positive and negative effects of actions taken by the powers that be.
Be Still, My Heart is a documentary project about teenage mothers in South Wales, UK. Britain has one of Europe's highest rates of teenage pregnancies and in the eyes of society this is still looked down upon.
I was interested to meet young girls and help them tell their stories through photos and interviews. From as early as 16 they are brave mothers who fight to defend their dignity with a humbling maturity. Meeting them has given me a positive insight into a situation that is often regarded as a ‘mistake’ as the perception of young motherhood is usually generalized into negativity and statistics are used to form the overview of a failing society. This never corresponds with the experiences and feelings of the young mothers, very proud women who have sometimes experienced domestic hardships but nonetheless decided to go through with their pregnancies, even though nearly always advised not to, and who now consider their children their saving grace.
N.B. All quotes are excerpts from anonymous interviews.
"Motherhood is scary, but it happens one day, just some people are younger than others. When I found out I was pregnant I was 15 and I honestly had no clue about anything, I was really blasé about it. My boyfriend tried to force me into getting rid of the baby but I spoke to my mum about it and she said however I felt, so I ended up feeling like keeping her and I wouldn’t change it. I broke up with him, he was cheating on me while I was pregnant, and then after certain things happened I had to go to the police and now he is not allowed direct or indirect contact with me or the baby. I don’t know if he wants to see her, all he’s posting on Facebook is about him and his new girlfriend saying it’s the happiest moment of his life. I just wanna pop his bubble and comment, “And what about your daughter?” "
"My boyfriend and I had agreed that I wasn’t to have the baby because I was only 17, so we were in duration of an abortion. We had been together for eight months then and we were living together. I had had a massive argument with my mother and she kicked me out, his mum wasn’t too impressed about taking me in so we took it upon ourselves to get a property, not that we wanted to do that, but at the time we didn’t really have a choice. Then, literally after a fortnight, he died in a motorbike crash. The police said it was his fault even though it wasn’t. He was an only child so that’s why I decided to keep the baby in the end, and I called him after my boyfriend.
I don’t deny it, up until the actual day that he was born I questioned whether I was doing the right thing all the time but then I saw him and it was just completely different. He looked the spit of his father to me so I was just in love with him. I was so glad I’d stuck through with him, he’s worth every bit. There are days that I feel like I shouldn’t have done it, times when I’d like to go out and get drunk like I used to, but it passes. I do not regret it at all. I don’t know where I’d be without my son right now, I think I’d be an alcoholic, drug abusive or whatever. I used to be able to hide my emotions rather than deal with them so obviously if I hadn’t had him I think I would have hid them by staying unsober. He is a saving grace in many ways.
My father was a very violent man. When I turned 10 I realised he was actually quite a nasty person, that is the legal age when you can decide, so I haven’t seen him since. He’s never tried reaching me. When he found out what had happened his only words were: “If you need money, you know where I am.” I’d rather live in a box than turn to him."
"My boyfriend and I were 16 when we left our own mother and father. We both wanted to have a baby but I said, “Let’s wait till I’m 17”, but the next thing we got caught. At first I was like, “Oh my God”, but he said, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, we’ll be okay, we’ve got enough money”, cause I was working at the time, I was a supervisor in a store so I worked so much, so much, till I had to stop. Next year the twins will go to nursery and I’ll go back to work. But no more babies."
"I was 17 when I first got pregnant. My ex boyfriend and I had been together for 10 months. We had spoken about having children, he was the one who said he wanted to start a family but as soon as I told him I was pregnant he left, he didn’t wanna know. Actually I thought about having an abortion because I wasn't really ready for a child, I wanted to live my life. I spent a weekend away with a friend, who had had an abortion because she was only 15 at the time, and with her mum, who was 15 when she had her, and after that I decided to keep the baby. I told my ex boyfriend and he said, “Okay, I’ll tell my mum”, and I didn’t hear off them for a while. They weren’t too happy about it. He started to grow to the idea, he was telling his friends, “Oh, I’m gonna be a dad, it’s great”, and then he realized how much responsibility it was and how tiring and stressful it was and he didn’t want that, he couldn’t take all that on so he said, “I’m leaving, it’s over”. Fine. We are still friends, well, we get along, we’re civil, but he has nothing to do with the child. As soon as he comes up in the conversation he changes the subject or he ignores me, he doesn’t wanna know."
"At first, when I found out I was pregnant, I freaked out. I was scared but I was so happy at the same time, I was really excited. My boyfriend and I had been together for two years and he had always wanted a baby with me. He acted like, “Oh, this is brilliant,” but he didn’t stop taking drugs and I was gonna protect my child no matter what my feelings were, so even though it was hard I had to break up with him. I’m a lot happier now, it shows you don’t need a man to be a mother. I knew my life was gonna change rapidly, drastically even, but I loved the fact that I would have him to look after, I love being a mum, I genuinely do. My mum’s helping me but I’m quite proud of myself because it’s not easy. Even with the help I get it’s still not easy."
"My boyfriend and I had talked a lot about having a baby together. I am 18, he is 28, we are in a stable relationship, we’ve got a new house, and last year we decided that's what we wanted to do. We both were really happy, he made me take four tests before he believed me! Both our parents were fine with it, but I’m not sure if that was because they would be fine with it anyway, because my mother was 21 when she had her first child, or even because my 16 year old sister had just fallen pregnant a couple of months before me. I was just finishing college, I did go back to do Child's Care, but because I had severe morning sickness and I was in and out of hospital I had to stop going.
Before she was born I just thought of all the positives, I thought I was going to have part of the person I love and part of me in a little human and I'll get to look after her and teach her stuff and I thought that was amazing, but I didn’t account for how hard it was gonna be. But it’s so worth it. When she is a little older I definitely want to get a job, but I want to do something I like. I’m into photography, I like art, maybe something with tattoos.
I was living with my parents then and moved out when my son was five months old because I was relying too much on them. I was on my own for a few months and then I met my fiancée. He knew that if he wanted to be with me he’d have to take on my son as well. He said, “That’s fine, I’m willing to do that”. He’s a good one. He had never thought about being a father but after meeting us and spending time with us he realized this was what he wanted. We did talk about having other kids, in a few years maybe, but it happened so soon, just over a month... We were shocked, more than anything, but we’re happy to have our daughter. He has given my son all he needs, he’s been a dad to him, well he is his dad now, my son started calling him dad one day and he was over the moon with it."
A community is the interwoven lives of different generations, a seamless unspoken memoir of times passed and present; a collective history that forms the foundations of the people it encompasses. The Knot is the consolidation of work made over the period of a year; documenting the parallaxes of growing up in the county of Staffordshire and the tumultuous relationship with identity as a member of that community. The images lie on the cusp of fictional, tampering with the notions of traditional documentary. They are a record of the conflicting ideas of comfort and convulsion akin to the emotions felt with regards to home.
Fifty years ago, the Festival of Britain gave birth to London’s iconic Southbank Centre. Underneath the large brutalist structure, named ‘Queen Elizabeth Hall’, resided a docile hollow space, filled with concrete banks, stairs and ledges that served no real purpose. The architecture mirrored the brutalist building above, and this concrete wonder was the beginning of the space known to this day as ‘The Undercroft’.
Adopted by skaters of the twentieth century, the space contained everything that skateboarders wanted all within one place. The Undercroft has since become a landmark and a home for them in London. The space was not purpose built for the skaters and that is part of its attraction for them, as it was seen as a found spot in the city, which means that it was down to the skateboarder’s imaginations to use the space in creative ways which serve all the needs of the modern street riders and their style in the 21st century, as well as the style of those from past generations.
Over the past forty years, The Undercroft has received major changes. From the space being downsized in 2003 to make storage space for Southbank’s arts Centre, to the outside railing built in 2010 to separate the skaters from the public. These changes were put in place in order to slowly push the skaters out. However, the skaters fought back and in 2013 the space was saved from being just another row of shops and restaurants, like the ones that currently surround it. This shows the passion that the skaters have towards the space and its historic value to them.
When shooting the images in the book, I only shot from inside the croft on the ‘skate park’ side of the barrier as the Southbank Centre would see it. This is because the book is an exploration of the space from an inside perspective, as opposed to how everyday commuters and tourists may see it.
The book looks at the details of the space, from the dents in the concrete tiles to the generation that skate there today, showing the history of the space and those who go there now fifty years after its creation. The book contains statements from the skaters that currently inhabit the space, describing what the undercroft means to them not only as a place to skate, but also as a home.