Joseph-philippe Bevillard

Joseph-Philippe Bevillard

Location: Ireland

Born in Boston, Joseph-Philippe started drawing and painting after he lost his hearing at the age of 3. He took up photography during his senior year at a private school in Massachusetts. In 1985, he enrolled at the Rochester Institute of Technology to study photography where he remained there for 2 years before changing direction in career due to financial circumstances, In 1990 he return to to study photography at the Art Institute of Boston. It was in 1990, Joseph-Philippe developed a style for his square B&W portraiture of people he met in the nightclubs and on the street. After working for several major photo labs in Massachusetts in the last half of 1990, he moved to Ireland during the millennium to start his property management business. In 2006, he went back to photograph portraits using the same camera and style as he did in the early 90’s. In 2010, he started a new project, photographing the Irish Travellers and four years later, he formed the Irish Travellers Photo Workshop. In 2018, his work has been exhibited at Leica Gallery in Milan, Somerset House in London, Renconres d’Arles in Arles, France and Espace Beaurepaire in Paris.


Irish Travellers

In 2000 I moved from Boston to Ireland; in the taxi from Shannon Airport I caught a tantalizing glimpse of a long row of caravans and white vans on the roadside. As we passed, I saw a cacophony of life; mothers and daughters attending to morning chores, teenage boys burning rubbish, scantily clothed children, large black and white ponies, hand-washed clothes drying on makeshift clothes lines. There was so much activity and visual life that this memory remained with me. I spent the following 10 years meeting with the Travellers, and in 2010 I started to document their lives.
As a fine-art black and white documentary photographer since 1990, photographing the Irish Travellers filled me with excitement, a sense of adventure and the challenges of something I recognized as a long-term project. My first challenge was to gain the trust of these unique people who are discriminated against harshly by society. I was regarded by them as a "settled person", and was treated with apprehension, suspicion, and curiosity. But never with hostility.
Over time I attended many of their fairs and annual events and they began to recognize me. Certain families would invite me into their homes for tea and began to delight in having their picture taken. Travellers are very proud of their culture and it is this dignity that I sought to represent. I wanted to photograph these people with their hearts and doors open.
There were obstacles; I am deaf and verbal communication was difficult. Despite my aptitude as a lip reader, people in Ireland, not just the Travellers, tend to speak very quickly. In order for me to lip read they have to look straight at me and despite their outward brashness there is shyness in them. Yet, when the camera is pointed at them all awkwardness disappears.
Using a medium format camera, a Hasselblad, I am able to make large prints with definitive detail, as I feel it’s important to document every detail with as much precision as possible. Also, as with all my portraits on different themes in the past, cropping the images is avoided. I include the original film’s rebate in order to show honest imagery. It allows the viewers to see exactly what I see through the viewfinder of my camera when I press the shutter.
To date, the Irish Travellers has become the largest and one of the most interesting theme I have produced in my three decades as a photographic artist. In my work with the travelling community I have been documenting several clans; my goal is to continue to work with these families as well as other members that I encounter on this rich and eloquent journey.

Joseph-Philippe Bevillard
January 2014

Irish Travellers

Prints available in limited edition and open edition. Larger prints also available. Please inquire for prices.