My Lovely horse.
A photo essay on Irish traditional horse culture.
After almost five years in Australia I came home in June 2007 and found myself looking at Ireland with fresh eyes. With so much change going on in the country and the "Celtic Tiger" economy in full effect I decided to document traditional horse culture. This is one aspect of Irish life that has remained unchanged but will in time most likely fade into the history books.
The project centers on traditional horse fairs and in particular the monthly Smithfield horse market. It’s one of Dublin’s oldest traditions dating back to the 17th century. Dealers come from around Ireland to buy and sell horses but the market is also popular with local teenagers keen to show off their ponies and their bare back riding skills on the cobbled stone square. In recent years the Smithfield area has been redeveloped for modern high density inner city living with apartments, cafes, hotels and a cinema all of which contrast greatly to the horse market. The new residents and local authorities are keen to close the market. There is also an attempt to control ownership of the horses (The Control of Horses Act) ultimately leading to the extinction of this unique sub-culture.
While working on this project I have photographed the tweed suited older gentlemen and gypsies at the traditional horse fairs of Spancil Hill, Puck Fair and Ballinasloe. As well as the tracksuit clad youth from deprived and working class suburbs of Limerick and Dublin. Most of the people I have photographed have no formal equestrian training and keep their animals in homemade stables or on green areas in housing estates. I have met many fearless, competent riders all of whom are down to earth, kind hearted people who love their horses.