How a Traveller family became Stella McCartney models
Photographer Ronan Gallagher spotted his latest subject at a fair in his Clare hometown
Dressed in Stella McCartney’s faux fur leopard print jackets, two sisters from the Travelling community strike a pose for Irish photographer Ronan Gallagher.
Gallagher was inspired to shoot a series of portraits for the designer’s #StellaByKids website campaign when he spotted the Traveller family in his hometown, Ennistymon, Co Clare.
“There is a small agricultural fair that happens in my local town in Ireland every couple of months,” says the documentary and travel photographer. “It is nothing new or exciting for the locals but every time I have been there I have seen an abundance of interesting characters. There is a group of kids who regularly attend this fair and I thought it would be a great opportunity to photograph them for this particular project.”
He says the children, who are are all part of the same family, were delighted to take part. “They were incredible. I just followed them around the fair and documented them which is my favourite way of shooting. One of the older kids was very interested in my job so I gave him a one-on-one lesson. I let him assist me changing the lens – he seemed eager to take up photography as a hobby which felt quite rewarding.”
The former surfer from Barefield outside Ennis has become one of the most sought after photographers in fashion, internationally known for his documentary style. He has worked with Gucci extensively and with Kate Moss and has travelled widely for Unicef.
Interpreting the Stella McCartney kids collection in the #StellaByKids, he chose to capture what he calls the “off moments” of his subjects at the Ennistymon Fair. The resulting photographs of Traveller children have a unique charm and energy.
Gallagher has recently become a father, welcoming his daughter Pearl to his family. As he completed a fashion shoot for Coach Handbags in Los Angeles, we talked to him about his photography career.
RONAN GALLAGHER IN FOCUS
The majority of your work captures people on and off guard. How did you find your subjects? I shoot a lot of street photography. I naturally focus on subjects that follow a mundane routine like waiting for a bus. I like those off moments when people just look normal. That’s what interests me.
How did you get into photography? I grew up on the west coast of Ireland surrounded by amazing landscapes and surf. My brother got me into photography after returning from surf trips and showing me pictures he had taken. I went out and bought some disposable cameras from my local pharmacy and started taking pictures of my skateboarding friends. It just grew from there.
Have you always been fascinated by people? I love listening to people’s stories and documenting interesting characters. Photography opened up this world for me more than I could imagine.
What makes an interesting image for you? Something that is a little bit off. I like when an image has a narrative to it. Alex Webb (the celebrated US Magnum photographer) is a master of this.
Who is your most memorable subject? I photographed a guy called Leo Bud Welch in Mississippi, USA. He is an 85-year-old blues player who was only recently “discovered” and who started his career (travelling to play international gigs) since 2014. He was offered the chance to audition for BB King in the 40s and 50s, but couldn’t afford the trip to Memphis at the time so missed the opportunity. He is such a talented man and an amazing character. I just really enjoyed spending time with him and hearing about his life and his music.
Would you say there is an element of documentary to your work? Yes, most of my inspiration comes from documentary photographers. I like to apply that to my fashion shots too.
- The Stella Kids collection can be bought online at www.stellamccartney.comand Brown Thomas, Dublin.
The video accompanying this article was made by Gavin Gallagher (brother of photographer Ronan Gallagher), a filmmaker living in Lahinch, Co Clare and the founder of Dreamcatcher Productions (www.dreamcatcherproductions.ie). In this short film, he documented the Horse Fair in Ennistymon capturing the lives of the Traveller children and their love of horses.