Join us this Thursday 12th November at 6.30pm at Carousel London for the opening of our ‘Made in Wales’ exhibition. The exhibition features new work by members of the collective as well as 27 photographers who’ve shown work on our blog.
Triin Kerge’s work ‘Cymydog’ allows us to nosy into people’s front rooms on one street in Cardiff. Triin is also known for her work ‘Kodukoht’ (Place of Home) which reflects the changing tastes and seasons in Estonia after gaining independence from 50 years of Soviet occupation in 1991.
‘For this project I was curious to meet my neighbours and observe the houses they lived in from inside. I was interested in finding out about the people who lived in these houses through their home surroundings and their use of the space. By knocking on each door on my side of the street I was seeking permission to photograph the insides of my neighbours front rooms, following the street from one end to another, choosing to use the same angle – the view of the room with the window showing the street outside.’
‘Through the process I met all of my neighbours and I got the real sense of the community I am living in and am part of in my daily life. Most of my neighbours were very welcoming and happy to take part of the project, yet the blank pages in the book represent the houses that for one reason or another didn’t wish to take part. With this project I wished to comment to the complexities of constructing a sense of place and how even if given the same geographical position within the city, it varies from house to house, even though all the houses are on the same street.’
Triin Kerge was born in Estonia and is now based in the UK working as a photographer having graduated from The University of South Wales, Newport in Documentary Photography. Her most recent bodies of work are around the theme of home.
You can hear Triin talking about her work at the Documentary Photography Graduate Exhibition here.
James O Jenkins
James O Jenkins
Whichever way you travel through Nelson it’s hard not to notice the open air handball (‘Pêl-law’) court that is situated on the high street. The listed building is the last surviving handball court in Wales and is testament to a sport that was once hugely popular. It was built for the entertainment of miners, following the miners’ strike of 1858 and has been continuously played on since its construction. Handball is played using a hard, leather-cased ball and using the palm of the hand the ball is hit against the front wall before or after it had struck the floor once. Similar to squash without the rackets, the object is to keep the ball out of the opponent’s reach but inside the bounds of the court and play continues until a competitor fails to return a ball. ‘Eton Fives’ was played at grammar schools in Wales but varied greatly from the working-class, often professional, game of handball that was played throughout Glamorgan.
In the nineteenth century handball was played in the yards of pubs in front of betting spectators. At Nelson (circa 1860) Henry Roberts, the landlord of the Royal Oak, built his own bigger court to poach the lucrative handball trade away from his rival landlord at the nearby Nelson Inn. The new court proved popular and the game in Nelson flourished.
In May 1995 the first European Handball Tournament was held at Nelson and was attended by American, Belgian, English, Irish and Welsh teams. The Eton Fives Yearbook (1994-95) commented, “admittedly the weather was excellent, but I would ask you to envisage a court situated right in the middle of a Welsh village, with a local pub literally on the left hand side of the court and a row of terraced houses on the right, and the main road and shops behind. On Finals day you could mingle with the local spectators. We saw the soul of handball in Wales this May. This year the court there became the centre of village life. We saw the game as it was originally devised, a street game, a game of the people.”
With thanks to Kevin Dicks whose book ‘Handball. The Story of Wales’ First National Sport’ will be published in 2016 by Y Llolfa.
James O Jenkins is a photographer working for a wide variety of clients and publications. He has exhibited widely and in 2012 he published his first book ‘United Kingdom’, a visual study of traditional annual UK customs. James is also co-founder of Portrait Salon, a Salon des Refusés for work rejected from the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize. James is one of the founding members of A Fine Beginning.
A Line Runs Through Us uses the backdrop of the Valley transit system to explore the idea of disassociation and belonging within a small nation. The landscape of South Wales, is in part transformed into a fleeting metaphor of a once loved space, familiar and embedded in memory, the home takes on a transitory role.
Abandoned railway channels that once connected the thriving townships of the Rhondda are explored in search of the enduring communities and how they’ve evolved against a modern Wales. The backdrop to the story is the seemingly transient nature of youth, which in actuality has a common and typically recognisable aesthetic as the slow but shifting South Wales landscape.
A Line Runs Through Us is an ongoing body of work exploring recollections of youth and place. While my photographs are all taken within the Rhondda Valley, they are more personal illustrations of memory and experience than an attempt to document the current people and landscape of a place.
My aim is to draw upon transitional echoes, those shifting memories that allow us to define who we are and where we have come from based upon a familiar setting and recollections from youth.
Gawain Barnard (b. Rhondda) completed an MFA in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport in 2009. His Photographic work and research has mainly focused around the environment and people of his youth. Making quiet portraits of adolescence and precise observations of their surroundings Gawain brings new and fresh reflections of the once industrialised regions of South Wales. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented by Millennium Images. Gawain is one of the founding members of A Fine Beginning.
Brian David Stevens
Photographer Brian David Stevens was part of our first group show Made in Wales in 2014, exhibiting work from his Brighter Later series. Brian currently has an exhibition entitled Heavenly Portraits at Rough Trade East in London until 30th September, which includes portraits of Welsh musicians.
The exhibition celebrates Heavenly Recordings and Rough Trade Shops 25th anniversary by exhibiting 54 photographic portraits of every artist signed to the label in this anniversary year. Accompanying the exhibition is a Heavenly 25 yearbook including all the portraits which is available from Rough Trade shops and the Heavenly website.
Brian David Stevens is a photographer working in London. He was born in Cambridge of Welsh parents and brought up in Yorkshire as a cruel genetic experiment. He is currently finishing his first book, Brighter Later, a portrait of Britain looking out to sea. Brian has completed and exhibited a ten year project shooting war veterans entitled They that are Left, his most recent exhibition at the Heavenly Social was Notting Hill Sound Systems. His portrait of Wilko Johnson is in the national collection.
Heavenly Portraits is at Rough Trade East, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL until 30th September.
James O Jenkins
‘The landscape of mid Wales, with its historical and cultural background, and the contemporary human relationship with it, has influenced my research and photographic exploration during the last two years of study on the BA (Hons) Documentary Photography course in Newport. For my final work I focused on the prevailing matriarchal spirit of Borth, an isolated coastal village.’
‘Inspired by the natural phenomena surrounding Borth, such as Cors Fochno, the only peat mire biosphere reserve in Wales, as well as and the ancient submerged forest which can be seen during low tides, I have followed a particular light source. The light of the blue hour was a crucial element for the aesthetics of this body of work. This particular light occurs just before sunrise or just after sunset. Parallel to this I have questioned my portrait making practice and I have gained an understanding about how the tiniests of facial movements can change the meaning of an image.’
From before the era of seafaring until the mid 20th century, Borth, a coastal village in mid Wales, was an isolated community living mainly from harvesting herring and cockles. Borth is built on an exposed shingle bank, flanked on one side by the Irish Sea with its submerged forest and on the other by the marshlands of Cors Fochno.
It was the women of Borth who walked the cliff path to Rhiw Fawr, through Clarach and over the hill to Aberystwyth to sell their catch. Named by the folk of Aberystwyth and the surrounding communities, the Borth women became known as The Black Crows. This was due to their close grouping, their feisty, independent characters and their fluttering black garments while descending from the hills towards the market town.
On ‘The Cliff of Vigil’ – the highest vantage point of Borth – the women often surveyed the wide open sea in the hope that their men would return. Almost all of the menfolk went to sea in order to nourish their families and yet a great number were consumed by the ocean. Many women were widowed – a fact that brought the womenfolk closer together and forced them to adapt to a more self-sustaining lifestyle from where the strong matriarchal spirit is still evident today.
Borth has changed from a seafaring village to a mecca for artistic self-sufficient women who share ecological and spiritual principles within the close knit community. Borth’s communal autonomy and also the strong bond between the old and young generations, which expands throughout the family circle, combine and represent an open minded Zeitgeist reflecting their spiritual and artistic freedom.
Many of the women of Borth express themselves through art, visualising their close relationship with the sea and the encircled landscape around Borth. Ranging from driftwood recycling to paintings, sculptures and music, the contemporary Black Crows distribute their art from the sea as did their valiant predecessors. They have decided to establish a lifestyle within the fierce and bleak coastal village, a location which has always been endangered by floods and storms. With the sea levels on the rise Borth’s future is in unknown hands.
The Black Crows of Borth is a photographic composition, with its prevailing roots within the maritime context. It explores the persisting landscape and draws a parallel between past and present to portray a new generation of strong women in the spirit of the matriarchal society of centuries ago. The contemporary Black Crows depend as much on the sea as on each other and their artistic expression as well as their social cohesion is of natural precedence.
Mira Andres is a Swiss photographer currently working and living in Wales and has graduated from the BA (Hons) Documentary Photography course at Newport.
The Black Crows of Borth has been selected as one of the winners of the Espy Photography Award and will be exhibited at the Elysium Gallery in Swansea in November 2015.
James O Jenkins
We’re pleased to share the invite for this year’s Made in Wales exhibitions at Cardiff MADE, Carousel London and Oriel Colwyn. The exhibitions will include new work from members of the collective plus 27 photographers who’ve featured on our blog. Feel free to share this and we hope you will join us at one of the openings. Our invitation is available to download here.
We saw Tony Othen’s photographs of Cardiff on the Instagram feed for The Photographers Gallery as part of the promotion for their current exhibition Women, Children and Loitering Men by Shirley Baker. Tony’s photographs of Cardiff are currently on show in Stuttgart as part of A Tale of Two Cities which is a joint exhibition of Fotosummer Stuttgart and Ffotogallery Cardiff. The exhibition is at Kunstbezirk Galerie im Gustav-Siegle-Haus until September 5th and features 23 photographers focusing on Cardiff and Stuttgart over the last sixty years.
‘These photographs were taken in Cardiff – the city in which I grew up. I lived there from 1953-1970. I studied Photography at the London College of Printing and, amongst some commissions that I undertook, one was for an organisation called Task Force that sought to encourage young people to volunteer to help in their community. My brief was to photograph in various parts of the UK and to show community life.’
‘I was happy to be able to photograph in my home town, and I tried to capture images that showed details of the day to day life in various parts of Cardiff. Most of the images on show were taken in the late 60s and record elements of a life style some 50 years ago.’
‘Described by some as Social Action Photography, my images served a purpose for those that commissioned the work – mainly charities and educational bodies. Currently, they can be seen as having captured rather quaint and even iconic moments in time and those that have seen them exhibited in Britain and in Europe have enjoyed the reminiscences that they trigger as well as the exploration of times past.’
‘Discovering my negatives, stored away so long ago, I have begun the process of cataloguing and sorting tens of thousands of images in the hope that, as communities, we can base some of our future decisions on our past experiences.’
James O Jenkins
Photographer Mark Griffiths tells about his work ‘The Healing Land’ where 8 children from Chernobyl visited Wales on a four week holiday to improve their immune system by spending a prolonged period in a clean environment.
‘The Chernobyl meltdown was the biggest nuclear catastrophe in world history. Ninety nine percent of the Belarusian land has been contaminated to varying degrees above internationally accepted levels as a direct result of the disaster. The villages and towns that are in close proximity to the epicentre of the reactor have been eerily abandoned and remain desolate. The people of Belarus are very self sufficient, they grow their own crops and vegetables, farm livestock and source water from nearby lakes and reservoirs. With 70% of contamination coming from food and water however, the poisoned earth continues to infect those that depend on it.’
‘An astonishing 85% of Belarusian children are deemed to be Chernobyl victims: they carry “genetic markers” that could affect their health at any time and can be passed on to the next generation. A vicious cycle that unfortunately could continue for hundreds if not thousands of years. The government of Belarus and the Ukraine established that all affected children should leave the contaminated regions for at least one month abroad every year. They believed the fresh air and uncontaminated food would give the children a vital boost to their immune system.’
‘The Chernobyl’s Children’s Lifeline was founded to help affected children receive the recuperation they so vitally needed. The charity carried out scientific research to determine whether a clean environment would benefit those affected. From 4000 children that were examined the results determined that the radioactive elements in a child before and after a four week visit to the UK dropped by an average of sixty eight percent. The immune system of a Chernobyl child needs a kickstart to help fight potential illness and disease.’
‘This year eight children were brought to the pristine county of Pembrokeshire in West Wales. The region is considered an area of outstanding natural beauty. The environment boasts clean air quality, blue flag beaches and spectacularly dense woodland and breathtaking countryside views.’
‘The children participate in a number of recreational and educational activities and outings during their stay, from long sunny days at the beach to go karting. They also receive free medical check ups including eye tests and dental appointments to ensure a clean bill of health. The aim of the charity is to make the experience as enjoyable as possible, while clean air and unpolluted land takes its natural course of healing the wounds.’
Mark Griffiths is a photographer based in South Wales available for editorial and commercial assignments and commissions.
James O Jenkins