How the choice of an IrishCentral editor's photo led this journalist in Paris to explore the Irish Traveller heritage.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is what a journalist or editor hopes a photo accompanying a leading press article, or a magazine cover photo, will accomplish.

A good cover photo can make or break the sales of a particular issue. At the same time photo editor’s budgets have been slashed in the press over the past two decades. However, certain niches like feminine magazines know they still need to come up with fabulous photographs, often involving expensive photo shoots, to both sell magazines and attract advertising revenue.

When I worked in a magazine, I loved having lunch with the photo editor. She was always passionate about finding the right photo, and she and the editor would often elicit each member of the editorial team’s opinion before opting for the cover photo.

As a writer for IrishCentral online, I rarely submit a photo since I realized the photos they choose were spot on.

A good photo for an online article is not only visually enjoyable, and informative; along with the title of the article, it can be clickbait ensuring more exposure for the journalist, advertising and the site itself.

During the "Golden Age of Photojournalism" (1930-1950s) with the advent of the then-new technology, compact commercial cameras and flashbulbs, war corresponds’ photos impacted more than an infinite number of words. However, today with online journalism it seems well-chosen photos can still make the world of reporting go round.

When I submit an article to IrishCentral and receive their e-mail announcing the article has been published “Congratulations! Your article has just gone live on IrishCentral” I’m always excited and wonder, just before clicking on the link, what photo or image will be matched with my words.

When I clicked on the link of my recent article For Irish poets the Irish Mammy is the top muse I saw a beautiful old black and white photo of an Irish mammy and her child. The photo caption is marked NLI - the National Library of Ireland whose rich collection comprises approximately 5.2 million photographs.

The stunning images of an Irish Traveller and child taken from the NLI archives.

The stunning images of an Irish Traveller and child taken from the NLI archives.

As I looked closer at the striking image, I was convinced that it was a photo of an Irish Traveller and her child. I reached out to Manor Donohue an Irish Traveller, who documents the history of Irish Travellers and has a rich private collection of photos, videos and camp fireside stories.

Manor’s lineage is Irish Traveller royalty. He is the grandson of John Donohue - the great-grandson of John ‘Jonty’ Donohue and his wife Sarah and grand-nephew of the famous Traveller Right’s activist Joe Donohue.

Manor confirmed that the lady in the photo was “definitely an Irish Traveller” and said, "I’ll have the name, surname for you soon.”

With the arrival of the digital age, journalism and photojournalism once again changed dramatically. Citizen journalists and phone journalism enables on the spot reporting of events with photographs. Paper versions of newspapers and magazines are tragically folding up and in the still existing paper press budgets have been squeezed.

On the other hand, the new digital age brings the advantage of easy accessibility to people, information, iconography, and web archives along with access to a far wider spectrum of media, including impartial sites voicing minority community’s viewpoints.

As a Jackeen who left Ireland at 21, I am now somewhat better informed about rural Ireland through IrishCentral, various other sites and talented people sharing documentation and archives, along with of course reading the Irish paper press whenever I get my hands on it.

So, although I loved the old ways and days, digital journalism brings its own advantages and joys. IrishCenral, like most sites, intersects advertising in the online articles, while still managing to choose editorial photos strong enough to catch the eye and imagination, which contribute to the storyline and help communities connect.

Here below are Irish Traveller Manor Donohue’s words on Travellers’ heritage and the importance of documenting it. Words that also match with the lovely photo of the Irish Traveller and her child and its caption ‘what better muse could there be than an Irish Mammy’.

“Heritage is a wonderful thing. Heritage is a story in many ways - it begins with the original storyteller - and passed along to the person who currently tells it.

"If we stop telling the story, then it’s forgotten, forever.

"With heritage, we inherit things we have never known or experienced, things only seen by those who lived it. Your entire identity was shaped/carved/painted by your previous generations, who took upon them unbearable conditions and they left these conditions behind, so that you (their offspring) can look forward to a better life than what they could’ve ever wished for, or even dreamed.

"Perhaps, just perhaps, the life you now have is one they wished for themselves, or, spoke about between themselves on a lonely, thunderous, stormy night in a shelter tent - on the side of a road.

"But, instead, they worked so that only you could have it. Like soil, cultivated so rich, that you could plant whatever dream or hope you had in it and it would spring into it.

The women of our heritage wasn’t just one woman, their unique special attributes was from an endless line of women who were chosen by God to love more passionately than others, committed to their children more fervently than any other in the world, and to seek our lord’s higher-touch more reflectively than others.”

In Ciaran Tierney’s excellent IrishCentral article Irish Travellers say racism is nothing new in Ireland, he stated on Thursday 23 January “a report by Seanad Eireann (the Irish Senate) recommended that there should be a place reserved in the upper house of the Irish parliament for members of the Traveller community. There has never been a Traveller in the Dail or Seanad since the foundation of the State in 1922”. The 40,000 strong Irish Traveller community’s input, thorough impartial journalism, Traveller's documentation and archives can all play a part in bringing this about.

As a reader of IrishCentral, it’s a pleasure to read stories and news, from home and the Irish diaspora,  linking Irish communities globally and aiming for "the big picture," while enjoying their choice of photos and images, often driving home what words alone cannot.  

IrishCentral, go n-éirí an bóthar libh!

This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.