We got to know Jooney Woodward via her portrait ‘Harriet and Gentleman Jack’ (below) which won First Prize in the 2011 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
The portrait was taken at the 2010 Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in Builth Wells and features 13-year old steward Harriet Power holding her guinea pig ‘Gentleman Jack’ (apparently named after the Jack Daniel’s whiskey box in which he was given to her). The portrait was part of a wider body of work about agricultural shows entitled ‘Best in Show’ and Jooney has also spent time photographing the world of equestrianism with ‘The Riders’.
Jooney Woodward has also been photographing the landscapes of Wales, ‘over the last 12 years I have travelled extensively around Wales documenting the people and landscapes I have viewed en route. Having grown up in the countryside, I am often drawn to documenting the familiar heritage and traditions of rural life. I love escaping the chaotic pace of London, to return to an environment where time and space seem less restricted.’
Rhoose Point, Vale of Glamorgan.
Nos 4-5, Ynslas, Ceredigion.
‘For me the countryside feels nostalgic, comforting and inspiring in contrast to urban life. My subject matter is inspired by road trips and exploring. I find Wales perfect for this, especially with its diverse landscape. There’s always something going on from one village to the next. I like discovering these places and documenting them and the friendly communities within them.’
Dot’s Diner, Cemmaes Road, Powys.
‘The aim of my landscape series was to explore society’s impact on the landscape of Wales and to document the changing shape of the country. I wanted to explore juxtapositions of the past and present, looking at how a new landscape is emerging from its history. I wanted to challenge the strong populist vision of Wales and present an alternative but empathic account of the country, one that avoids sentimentality and seeks to explore the nuances of local Welsh culture, attitudes and lifestyles.’
Viewpoint 3, Borth, Ceredigion.
The Victory Hall and Cinema 1953, Llanybydder, Dyfed.
Jooney Woodward is a British photographer who lives and works in London. Born in 1979, she studied at Camberwell College of Arts. Her photography often documents the British at leisure and seeks to explore the relationship between lifestyle and identity. She has exhibited widely, including a solo show at MOMA Wales and has twice been highly commended in The Observer Hodge Photographic Award.
Tumble is Huw Davies’ ongoing documentation of his home town Tumble in Carmarthenshire, West Wales. Tumble is an ex-mining community in the heart of the Gwendraeth Valley and this work is Huw Davies’ personal and aesthetic interpretation of contemporary Welsh culture and it’s sense of place.
‘Tumble has become the focus of most my projects in recent years, and is likely to be for many years to come, I am mesmerised by it. This is the place that I grew up in. It is a place that holds my memories and experience, and it is a constant reminder of who I am. Not only has it watched me grow, I too, now watch as the social and psychological structure of my home village changes and moves towards a greater anonymity.’
‘In recent years, many rural communities have seen significant change with great effect, inspiring Davies’ decision to photograph the village in what he refers to as its transitional state.’
‘Having been raised in this close-knit community, Davies recognises that the village he calls home is changing rapidly. The traditional ways of rural society are being challenged by a modern homogeneous culture. He accepts that change is inevitable, even though, whilst he was growing up, the village seemed to be a permanent entity. Houses and buildings that had once been fundamental to community life were now being revealed as transient and only of a particular time – they were being replaced by those of a different time. Businesses were closing down or moving out, some of which had been a source of work in the community for over fifty years.’
‘Change has implications, both positive and negative. The death of the original economy, based on mining, undeniably brought great hardship, but also forged further resilience of the community. However, during the latest recession this has been challenged yet again.’
Born in West Wales, photographer Huw Alden Davies received a BA First Honours Degree in Photography at the West Wales School of Arts, and studied his Masters Degree in Documentary photography at Newport University of Wales. His work has been printed in a number of publications including Portfolio, Blown, The British Journal of Photography and CCQ, and has been exhibited in a range of exhibitions around the UK and Europe. His work from the Tumble series was recently included as part of the ‘Valleys Re: Presented, in the Diffusion Festival’ (Cardiff), and he was also included in the archives of both the National Museum of Wales, and The National Portrait Gallery, London. He currently works as a Documentary photographer, and exhibiting artist, while continuing to document his home village Tumble.
Môr Plastig (Welsh for ‘Plastic Sea’), is a photographic study of plastic objects washed up along the Welsh coastline. The work ‘is a formal ‘forensic’ study of plastic detritus washed up off the west coast of Wales, and more recently further afield. With this project, Perry’s photography is not concerned with the campaigning rhetoric of straight environmental documentary. Rather it poetically alludes to changes taking place and what we might be leaving for future generations. His approach remains resolutely open and ambiguous.’
‘At a glance, the shape and size could be familiar, the texture and colour offer a displaced sense of beauty. There is a personal, environmental and aesthetic quality to these objects, which raises more questions than answers. The human stories and the impending environmental impacts soon become more prominent in our thoughts.’
‘On closer inspection, there appears to be something else to absorb, in these highly detailed and forensically photographed objects. The degrading effect of the sea has created extraordinary forms and surfaces. Are we allowed to enjoy nature’s continuous eroding process and the painterly effects caused by the interaction of sun, sea and sand? The repetitive presentation also provides a rhythm of colour and form and allows relationships to develop between the individual specimens.’
‘To achieve these images Perry has used a very high-resolution digital camera. He shoots in neutral daylight avoiding strong shadows and dramatic lighting. His intention is to show the objects as they are, thus achieving an objectivity to the process, allowing the viewer to bring their own interpretations and thoughts to the viewing experience. This is clearly very different to much environmental photography, which uses strong emotionally charged images to document the effects of climate degradation. Clearly, this approach leads to a paradox in that the shoes have become both aesthetically appealing objects and yet dangerous pollutants at the same time.’
Shoe 2, Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2013.
‘Whilst the sheer number of shoes is a reminder of the ubiquity of plastic on our beaches, it is also a barometer of the infinite choice now offered by our global consumerist world. Sandals come in every size, shape and colour. No two shoes are the same and they now frequent every beach on the planet from West Wales to Eastern China. These products don’t need global logistic companies to transport them from market to market, the worlds ocean currents do it for them. Perry has found Russian sandals on his Pembrokeshire beach and British Flip Flops on the beaches of East Africa.’
Grey Cylinder, Traeth Llyfn Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2015.
‘For as long as we can remember, artists have been interested in collecting and sifting through the trash society leaves behind. Perry is motivated by giving these remains a status and attention they wouldn’t normally assume. He wants people to share ‘a strange knowledge’ and spend a little time looking at things that they would normally walk past and ignore as rubbish.’
‘This collection of extruded polymers offers something more than an array of colour, form and extraordinary surface details or a worrying warning of looming environmental disaster. It is perhaps, most of all, a powerful reminder of the power of nature. Not as a creator of sublime epic landscapes or breathtaking natural disasters, but as a moulder and sculptor of all things, however large or small, living or synthetic. Looking at this body of work one must surely conclude that nature is the ultimate designer.’
In May 2015 a selection of work from Môr Plastig is showing at the 56th Venice Biennale.
After a post graduate degree in economics and 13 years in industry, Perry left the world of commerce to focus on his art and environmental projects. He now lives between London and West Wales where he is converting a coastal sheep farm into a site for sustainable architecture and art. His work is increasingly influenced by the surrounding landscape and environmental concerns. Perry’s early large scale highly detailed colour photographs, often taken whilst driving around Britain’s marginal coastal and upland regions, combine powerful painterly aesthetics with seemingly mundane locations or areas of environmental degradation.
Mike’s first public show Beach was at The Photographers’ Gallery in 2004, and in 2007 he was a featured artist in BBC 4’s Arts Documentary, Britain in Pictures. In 2009 he won best picture at Christies of London’s 25th anniversary photographic competition, and in 2012 Mike was part of the group show ‘New Ground: Landscape Art In Wales since 1970′, curated by The National Museum of Wales, including Richard Long, David Nash and Keith Arnatt. In 2013 Mike’s collection of plastic shoes was on show at the Institute for Contemporary and Interdisciplinary Arts (ICIA) and selected for The National Eisteddfod of Wales 2013. In July 2014 Perry’s Môr Plastig was included in Cornelia Parker’s ‘Black and White Room’ at The Royal Academy of Arts.
A short film about Mike’s work as Artist in Residence at Oriel y Parc can be seen here. Mike’s work is also represented by The Photographers Gallery.
Text used is from an essay by Lindsay Hughes (ICIA Exhibition Catalogue, 2013). Lindsay Hughes is Creative Producer (Visual Arts) at The Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts (ICIA), University of Bath.
The Reclusive Relationship is an exploration of Nathan Klein’s upbringing, documenting notions of memory and belonging. This is a series of photographs showing the existence of Klein’s grandparents relationship that has ostensibly become reclusive, resulting in them living separate lives.
‘Nature versus Nurture; both come together to create the people we are today. Wrexham was my home; not a rich place, but happiness could be found. My grandparents raised me as my mother was in an abusive relationship; this is their story. My grandparents have been married for over fifty years, which sounds wonderful, yet are they happy? They respect the vows they made to each other and yet their daily lives show little communication nor contact. They believe in marriage, yet have created their own definition of what this means. It seems to work for them, or at least it is tolerable.’
‘Throughout their relationship they have slowly moved into their own separate existences, living in different parts of the house, sleeping in different rooms, and spending their day-to-day life alone. They spend very little time, if any, together. They communicate in a way that is similar to animals in the jungle – they shout. And as I became part of that jungle pack, I believed this to be the norm of home life for a long time. My granddad has little patience and suffers with arthritis and other conditions. This has caused him to be a very moody elderly man. It has caused a division within the family, as no one feels comfortable around them causing further isolation.’
‘My grandparents were brought together through their love for travel and the daughter that quickly came along. A child forms the cement between a disparate couple as they combine their forces to do the best they can for that child; the love between them is partly transferred to the child as the focus and centre of attention as time demands. One’s own needs get pushed to the back. That child has gone, yet they stay together because at their age, they see little option. It is not unpleasant, yet not joyous, and maybe not even adequate. The idea of being alone scares them.’
‘I confronted my grandmother with the question of why are they still together? She responded…”well, there’s nothing else in life to do than stay together…well whatever…you watch after each other…I said I believe in the vows of marriage…we watch after each other…not like youngsters who marry for no reason…we didn’t do that”.’
‘Both my Nan and Grandad live a very lonely and isolated life and yet they are together. Family gatherings play a part in bringing them together, but like two opposing pole of a magnet, they quickly separate and slip back into what has become the norm for them.They took me on in difficult and trying circumstances when I was 11, this was emotional for all of us. And yet, my presence gave them a mission; a new and unexpected child to care for and nurture. A new life and raison d’être.’
‘And yet now, like my Mother, I am no longer with them. And now I have flown the nest as an independent mature young man looking to make my life a success, I worry about what I have left behind.’
Nathan Klein is currently in his final year of a BA(Hons) Photography degree at the University of Portsmouth. Nathan’s work concentrates on the exploration of notions of memory, escapism, and the repetition of everyday existence. Through exposing intimate moments in life, attempting to challenge the understanding of intimacy through questioning what is public and private in today’s age, with inhabiting images of what is deceived as private.
Last November we were pleased to be invited to speak at Lens 2014: Festival of Welsh Documentary Photography at The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. Another of the Festival’s speakers was Neil Turner who we are grateful to for sharing with us his photographs of Cwm Colliery, near Pontypridd, in the run up to the 1974 miners’ strike.
The strike was the result of the ‘three day week’, one of several measures introduced by the Conservative Government to conserve electricity. From 1st January until 7th March 1974 commercial users of electricity were restricted to three specified days consumption each week. At the end of January 1974, 81% of the National Union of Miners members voted to strike after rejecting the offer of a 16.5% pay rise. The Prime Minister Edward Heath then called a general election for February while the ‘three day week’ was still in force.
In 1974 I started work for the National Coal Board. As part of my training I was sent to work at Cwm Colliery, near Beddau, where I was assigned to the stores. 1974 was the year of the miner’s strike during the premiership of Ted Heath.
Many of the photographs are of the day to day comings and goings of the miners. The photographs were taken on my Nikkormat with my solitary lens of the time, the trusted 50mm F2. Film was processed by myself in my parents kitchen which doubled as a dark room for printing after everyone had gone to bed.
Some of the men in my photographs will have started work down the mines when they were 14 years of age, as did my father. The likes of such men will never be seen again.
I consider it a privilege to have spent a few months at Cwm Colliery and to have been in a position to document such times. I just wish I had known what I was doing at the time, and the significance.
The 16-week dispute, which saw coal production come to a complete standstill, ended 48 hours after Mr Heath’s Conservative party was voted out of power. The election produced a hung parliament with Harold Wilson becoming Prime Minister with a minority Labour Government.
On 6th March 1974 the miners called off a four-week strike following a 35% pay offer from the new Labour government. 260,000 miners accepted weekly pay rises ranging from £6.71 to £16.31. The offer was more than double the figure offered by Edward Heath’s government.
Craig Bernard’s project Standard Survival Technique began from a visit to the Forest of Dean. ‘The pictures were made in 2009 and 2010 and I wanted to create a feeling rather than a narrative so the lighting is important. I took a few pictures on a day trip to the Forest and the whole project stemmed from those first pictures.’
‘Because of the open ended feel to the story I wanted to just hint at things. The pictures are about me just as much as they are about the children in them. I tried to create this foreboding place that three brothers travel through with each other, so a sense of togetherness or dealing with a situation comes across in the pictures, I think when children share a history good or bad they find a way of talking or coping with that history collectively or individually.’
The songwriter Colm Hall wrote a story to accompany the work, some of which is included with the photographs below.
For there are those other memories too. The ones we hid, and bade ourselves keep. The ones that Shaun could not laugh off; that Darren could not fight. Memories of hiding out here past dusk, refusing to go home; of the things we could not do then, of the things we did not understand.
Feeling afraid. And over time, that fear became anger, and I could not put it out. We locked them up in the dark, and made them dull; those memories. We left them in our wake, so that they might fade. And the details slip away towards obscurity, but never fully get there.
The colors dampen in the mind. Who wore what when? Who did what to whom? And in what order? These things go. Dialogue is erased, the faces are drawn blank; the light drained. I look at the land about me, the woods, the sheer brightness of the day, the colors so vibrant in the daylight, and it hardly seems like this could have been the place.
Our memories are elusive. They paint their own past. Or cover it over. We are left with a negative; a small dark clip of the truth, and that is all that we are able or prepared to see. We are afraid to blow it up, afraid of the bigger picture. These things we have seen; they have shaped us. They direct us still. And we will keep them with us always, whether we mean to or not. So, no, we have not forgotten; but then again, nor do we remember.
Craig Bernard is a Cardiff born photographer living in London. His pictures are ongoing project based stories, some made over years to just days. Craig previously worked as a manager and curator at Third Floor Gallery curating monthly exhibitions of new and established documentary photographers.
South of the Landsker is work by photographer Mark Griffiths exploring ‘The Landsker Line’ – a language boundary between the Welsh speaking and English speaking areas of South West Wales.
‘The Landsker Line is an invisible but definite line that has been present for nearly a thousand years and divides the south west corner of Wales from the rest of the country. South of this line the people are of very mixed origins: Scandinavians, Normans, Anglo Saxons and Flemings as opposed to the Anglo/Celtic native heritage from the regions north of the line.’
‘The people within this region are an eclectic mix of characters with a diverse range of cultural and historical backgrounds. The region has been described as “Little England Beyond Wales” due to the sheer number of emigrants to the area and the abundance of the Welsh language spoken.’
‘The Landsker has changed position many times, first moving north into the foothills of the Preseli Mountains during the military campaigns of the Early Middle Ages, and then moving southwards again in more peaceful times, as the English colonists found that farming and feudalism were difficult to maintain on cold acid soils and exposed hillsides.’
‘This body of work is the outcome of a loosely based exploration of the land and the people encountered. A vast majority of this landscape remains untouched and its historic roots and identity are still prominent in the ancient woodland, mountains and lakes that encapsulates the county.’
Mark Griffiths graduated with a degree in photojournalism from the University of Wales/Trinity St David in 2013. He is based in South and West Wales and works as a freelance photographer.
South of the Landsker will be exhibited at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven from the 4th to 30th May.
Lua lives next to the river. It partly explains her reasoning when asked to photograph the River Usk in 2014 why her gaze turned from the water to those beside it. The life that the river brings seems to excite her, not the river itself. She explained that the water seemed “cold and disconnected” from the people that surround it and that she wanted to “look at the river and its relationship with the people surrounding it and how it affects their daily live instead of focusing on the physical form of the river”.
‘Discovering that there was a deep detachment between the population and their ‘natural’ environment became the inspiration behind the work. This is where the study of the city comes in, the postnaturalism that surrounds the natural, city dwellers and city life creating an evolving form of realism that makes sense then and there, crafting a life and moving through it, the river of life sitting right beside the real thing.’
‘Villages were built beside rivers for the simple reason that they provide water and energy. During the industrial revolution the river’s role changed and became a tool for transporting coal and other materials. However, nowadays, with the further proliferation of capitalism, the use of the river is now little more than a nostalgic view. A fenced off postcard.’
‘By exploring this disconnection, I also observed how the river could be perceived as a threat. The separation with the nature and its rhythm is now part of how we interact and exist within the land. Cautionary barriers alerting us to the dangerous deep zones in the riverbanks, make impossible to discover and interact with the river. One of the consequences of this situation is the idealization of the nature and its naive misconception. But I like to think that we are more primitive than we think. The turbulent nature maintains engrained above the modern conventions. Undetectable rituals in the everyday life manifest in the form of plastic trees, exotic pets and yearning songs. Mysterious symbols of human expression proof that the strength of the river still lives inside of us.’
Lua’s work explores identity, representation, and otherness reaching the documentary photography boundaries. Her work focuses on the banal moments and subjects from daily life in western modern civilization. She uses photography to consider social issues while commenting on this tradition and challenging its limits.
This blog post looks at the work of Robert Haines who is revisiting and updating his book ‘Once Upon a Time in Wales’ to be exhibited in 2016.
Old Mr Jones and Old Mrs Jones. Old Mrs Jones used to sell pegs around the street.
‘For 35 years a collection of photographs remained hidden from the world in a box beneath my bed. They were taken around 1971-2 when I was twenty years of age and they record some of the characters from the village of Heolgerrig and the nearby town of Merthyr Tydfil in the South Wales valleys. Heolgerrig, where Welsh was still the first language, was a small hamlet of several hundred houses on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil, once the ‘Iron Capital’ of the world. At the time there were major redevelopment plans for nearby Georgetown and Dowlais, areas that were warrens of small Ironworkers’ cottages.’
Lewis Evans and his wife Martha
Dai Llewellyn. Not quite the world’s best gurner but he did come 3rd in the 1968 World Gurning Championships.
I have no idea who this man was. He invited me into his home to take his portrait.
‘I wanted to record some of the characters, especially some of the old characters who seemed to have drifted in from a previous century. We would never see the likes of them again. They spent their days getting plastered on cider, working underground, and living in often terrible conditions. Some of the people I knew well, several were family members, others complete strangers.’
Dai Passmore and his dog.
‘I spent time with some of them, often having a pint in Ye Olde Express, The Lamb Inn or The Red Lion. Others were just fleeting images of strangers I passed in the street. Merthyr had a reputation as a tough town and justifiably so. Some of the characters in my photographs were hard men who later came to untimely deaths. Yet, a common factor was that they all enjoyed having their photographs taken. It made them feel important.’
God in denim on the British Tip in Merthyr. “I’m God”, he shouted at me as I was passing.
Tex Jones. Tex was the father of my schoolfriend Wayne. He lived on the Gurnos Estate and was crazy about the Wild West.
‘In 2014, with Arts Council of Wales and REDHOUSE Gallery support, I embarked on an updated project. I aim to produce a new body of work featuring characters from present day Merthyr Tydfil and the village of Heolgerrig. It is titled This Time in Wales.’
‘Today it is a much more diverse and cosmopolitan place. The plan is to go out and photograph family and friends just as I did in 1972. An exhibition of the new work together with the old is planned for the REDHOUSE Gallery in Merthyr Tydfil in March 2016.’
In 2010 Robert made a film based on the photographs from the project, titled Astronauts, Vikings and Ghosts which can be seen at Doc Alliance Films. The film was premiered at Festival International du Film sur l’Art in Montreal, won ‘Best Documentary’ at the Newport International Film Festival and was broadcast on the prestigious La Lucarne slot on ARTE in France and Germany in 2012.
Astronauts, Vikings and Ghosts will be shown on Arte on Tuesday 24th February.
Robert Haines was born in Merthyr Tydfil. He graduated in Film at the University of Westminster in London and his first documentary ‘Tommy Gravedigger’ was broadcast on BBC2 in 1975. Robert is represented in Paris by Dominique Charlet.
900 miles in 70 days – Gareth Phillips embarked on a coastal journey to explore the meaning of the Welsh word ‘Hiraeth’.
Hiraeth has no direct English translation but is often defined as a kind of homesickness or memory tinged with grief or sadness. A mix of longing, yearning or wistfulness for a place, person or memory of the past. A nostalgic reflection or memory that often invokes melancholy, as the reflection or memory is one of elation and happiness of a place or loved one that can often never be felt again.
Using the entire coastline of Wales as a catalyst, the resulting body of work witnessed Gareth’s journey to encounter and capture experiences of Hiraeth. To do this Gareth continuously walked nine hundred miles over a seventy day period, making wild, hand constructed shelters or staying in isolated hotels or campsites. All with the aim of bringing him closer to experiences of nostalgia, memory and Hiraeth.
What defines Hiraeth? Houwser Bartels, graphic designers for the book Gareth Phillips and co editor David Plummer are producing, outline the questions they asked themselves whilst producing the first book dummy for the project. ‘After an extensive research period in which we contemplated the abundance of imagery from Gareth Phillips, we asked ourselves a set of questions.’
‘What is it exactly that defines Hiraeth, and can it be magnified by a graphic intervention? Can we use keywords as “contraction”, “exploration”, “longing” and “to immerse oneself” to define a certain rhythm within the book? Can we treat a landscape as a portrait, and vice versa?’