Ireland’s Travellers invite a fair amount of voyeurism on account of their reputation for physical toughness and petty crime. The conventional wisdom is that this social group has decided to remain distinct from mainstream Irish society, in order to preserve their unique cultural traditions. But German photographer Birte Kaufman, who has documented life in a Traveller caravan in a surprisingly intimate way, contends that these outsiders didn’t necessarily elect to exist on the margins. Rather, they drifted away once the skills for which they were known—specifically fixing mechanical gadgets—became largely irrelevant to the modern economy:
In earlier times, when they were migrant workers or tinkers, everybody needed them; they were accepted. And then they lost their function in society, and they had to find other ways of doing business. I don’t know what has lead to the breakdown, but it is to do with the fact that a lot of them lost their function in mainstream society. Something has happened. I would say it is deep inside, you don’t see it completely; it is not obvious, but you see it in the way that some of the people look at them. They are so completely different in some ways from the main settled Irish community.
The whole project is well worth your time, as Kaufman took an immersive approach and actually joined her camper to a Traveller caravan. She gets major points for commitment to the endeavor.