This photo series beautifully illuminates what it's like for young women living in Ireland today

We asked Irish photographer Tessy Ehiguese to photograph Irish women on a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and the results are stunning. Here, they discuss their experiences as diverse women in Ireland and how the country has evolved over the past few years.

In recent years, Ireland has progressively evolved, welcoming a more diverse population and furthering women's rights. It is this transformation that Irish photographer Tessy Ehiguese chose to explore in her latest photo series.

She photographed and interviewed three different Irish women with various backgrounds: Nathali Turner, a Nigerian/Irish graphic designer, Minji Park, a Korean barista and model, and Léna Seale, a white Irish actress, model and entrepreneur.

The three creatives opened up about the obstacles they've overcome as women and discussed the pros and cons of living in Ireland today. They agreed that while the country is vastly more progressive now, it still has a long way to go in regards to tolerance and gender equality.

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Nathali Turner

Age: 24 

Occupation: Model/Freelance graphic designer 

Ethnicity: Nigerian/Irish

Nathali Turner, taken on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

1. What do you find most special about Ireland (i.e. its culture, landscape, people)?

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I find the Irish culture to be special because people can come together without knowing one another. Overall, there are a lot of friendly characteristics and people are always up for having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Another thing that I would say is special is the history, folklore and the landscapes. There are a lot of beautiful hidden landscapes waiting to be discovered and stories that come with certain areas in Ireland; I find all these really special.

2. What are your thoughts of the diversity of people in Ireland and how it has evolved?

I can definitely say that it has become more diverse over the past few years since moving to Ireland. It’s beautiful to see the mix of people living alongside one another peacefully.

3. How does it feel to be a woman living in Ireland today?

There are a lot of people who I feel are still stuck in the mentality that women are there for their pleasure. They don’t see women as their equal or they see them as weak. There are also people who understand women’s rights and respect them, but I feel like it needs more work in Ireland, like many other places.

4. How was it like taking part in this project? Can you describe your experience?

I thought it was fun; it was a great experience. Getting to see the beautiful landscapes that we don’t often see and being around nature is a beautiful thing. It speaks to the soul in a way that a lot of things don’t.

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Minji Park

Age: 25 

Occupation: Barista/Model 

Ethnicity: Korean 

Minji Park, taken on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

1. What do you find most special about Ireland?

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The thing I find most special is how friendly the people are. I enjoy the small talk and a smile when I meet people who I’ve never met before. 

I used to be a very shy person. I couldn’t even talk or smile at strangers (more likely, I didn't want to.) Because in my country, we never talk or smile at people who we’ve never met before. If a stranger smiled at me, I used to think “why the hell are you looking at me?”. But Irish people are different. Their kindness is amazing. 

A few months after I arrived in Ireland, I got a job in a coffee shop. And I had to smile and make small talk all the time which I had never done before. Then guess what? My character completely changed. I started to talk to strangers and smile all the time. Since then, I am so much happier than before. 

So I guess that is what makes me Irish. Every time when I realise how different I am and how much happier I am now, I think to myself "I am becoming Irish". 

2. What are your thoughts of the diversity of people in Ireland and how it has evolved? 

There are so many different people from so many different countries in Ireland. But wherever we are from, we all speak the same language living in the same culture. Also, we can learn all the different cultures from each of us. We are living harmoniously. 

I think the reason we can all live together like this is because Irish people were already ready to open their minds. Of course, there are some people who target certain races with anger. There is also discrimination that does not surface. But we always figure out what the best way is for all of us and fight for it. I believe in people. I believe in the power to change the world. 

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3. How does it feel to be a woman living in Ireland today?

I came to Ireland to expand my world. I learned how to settle down in a strange world alone as a woman having experienced everything new. The most proud experience I've had as a woman was when I was one of the countless people who shouted "YES" in May in 2018.

Of course, sometimes I suffer from catcalling or feel unfairly treated. However, Ireland is still the place that laid the foundation for me to stand tall as a woman. 

4. How was it like taking part in this project? Can you describe your experience? 

I started modelling work a few months ago. The first time standing in front of the camera made me so nervous. Actually, I still don’t feel fully comfortable in front of the camera. But on this project the photographer, Tessy, made me feel so comfortable. She knows exactly what she is doing and I just followed to where she lead. 

I have this precious opportunity not because I am very good at it, but because a lot of people have helped me and encouraged me. Thank you so much for trusting me and letting me take part in this project. It was a very enjoyable experience. 

5. Anything you'd like to add? 

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It's a hard time for all of us. I believe we will overcome it soon if we are careful and considerate of each other without encouraging fear to hate.

Léna Seale

Age: 28 

Occupation: Actress, model and entrepreneur

Ethnicity: White Irish 

Léna Seale, taken on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
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1. What do you find most special about Ireland?

It’s hard to choose one thing since I love our little island. I love the people, the landscape and I like the fact that because we are a small island on the west edge of Europe, we have managed to preserve Gaelic culture in a way that other European countries didn’t.

We have quite a unique culture with our talents for storytelling and craic agus ceoil! We also have a lot of land still left untouched. It’s good that there is now a big effort to replant some indigenous forest. I hope we can preserve our beautiful landscapes for as long as possible. Driving through Connemara on a sunny day is just magic! 

2. What are your thoughts of the diversity of people in Ireland and how it has evolved? 

We are a wonderfully diverse mix of communities and ethnic groups in Ireland. I don’t claim to be an expert on social issues but it doesn’t take an expert to see that we have work to do on becoming more inclusive of diversity. Whether it’s transphobia, classism, sexism, discrimination of differences, ageism – we can always do better. 

I was lucky that I grew up with a relatively progressive and inclusive family around me but I still saw plenty of negative attitudes in my hometown of Galway. For example, there was only a handful of non-white people in my whole secondary school in Galway, which shows an example of systemic racism. There were plenty of other ethnicities; they just weren’t in my school. It wasn’t until I moved to Dublin that I started working with, dating and befriending a really diverse group of people. It has added a lot of value to my life. It allows you to grow out of a provincial mindset and to learn in ways that you never could from a textbook. 

If #BLM taught us anything it's that Ireland isn't as welcoming a place as many would like to believe. Other ethnicities settling here is a fairly recent development but even the way we treat our own travelling community has been an ongoing issue. It wasn’t until the #BLM movement started that I began to research the facts and figures on racism in Ireland and I was honestly shocked. I didn’t realise how deep it ran, admittedly because I didn’t experience it directly. 

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We have moved pretty quickly from not being allowed to use condoms to voting yes for gay marriage and women being allowed to have safe abortions. So, we have a long way to go but at least we are moving in the right direction. 

3. How does it feel to be a woman living in Ireland today? 

Living in post-Catholic Ireland is an interesting place to be. I feel lucky that I have the privilege of being born into a relatively safe and developed country. I have the added privilege of having white skin and being straight, so I have never been discriminated against based on my skin colour or sexual orientation. Irish women have so much more freedom and options than our fore mothers and grandmothers but sexism still exists. We are still learning to navigate our freedom in a society that isn’t quite ready. For example, my generation grew up on porn, so there were unrealistic expectations put on both sexes that wouldn’t have been there previously. 

I would be lying if I said I haven’t experienced sexism. On the smaller scale, I have had sexist remarks directed at me in a workplace setting. Once my boss and another male co-worker joked that I would love to be gang-raped and laughed at me while I went red and stayed silent. If it was now, I would speak up but I was young and scared to speak my mind. I later quit a managerial position three months after starting because the owner spoke down to me and made multiple sexist comments. The day I quit I got a message from two other staff members there (one male and one female) saying that none of the women liked him there and I was right to quit. 

On the more extreme end, I have been directly and indirectly affected by male abusers. It has had a massive, negative impact on my life. Unfortunately, I am not part of a minority. At least our generation are learning to speak up and we now have language for certain behaviours and micro-aggressions. On the positive side, I have a really encouraging, progressive and safe group of male and female friends. Most of my friends are socially aware and inclusive. We are learning and growing together and I feel lucky for that reason. 

4. How was it taking part in this project? Can you describe your experience? 

It was really refreshing. I like to connect to something deeper when working on a creative project, so this has been a stimulating, reflective experience. Props to Tessy, who is part of the new generation of photographers – respectful, aware and super talented. Also, I’ll be honest, it's been a long-standing goal to be published in Image so I’m excited! Thanks all for having me involved. 

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5. Anything you'd like to add? 

A quote that is stuck in my mind at the moment by Kurt Vonnegut: 

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies – God damn it, you've got to be kind.”


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