Be Still, My Heart is a documentary project about teenage mothers in South Wales. Britain has one of Europe’s highest rates of teenage pregnancies and in the eyes of society this is still looked down upon.
Marta was interested to meet young girls and help them tell their stories through photos and interviews. From as early as 16 the young women become brave mothers who fight to defend their dignity with a humbling maturity. Meeting them gave Marta a positive insight into a situation that is sometimes regarded as a ‘mistake’; the perception of young motherhood is usually generalised into negativity as statistics are used to form the overview of a failing society. But such perceptions and generalisations do not tend to correspond with the experiences and feelings of the young mothers, they incline to be proud women who have sometimes experienced domestic hardships but nonetheless decided to go through with their pregnancies, even though nearly always advised not to, and who now consider their children their saving grace.
(Please note the interview text does not relate to the photograph it accompanies as Marta wanted the text and photography to remain anonymous).
My boyfriend and I had agreed that I wasn’t to have the baby because I was only 17, so we were in duration of an abortion. We had been together for eight months then and we were living together. I had had a massive argument with my mother and she kicked me out, his mum wasn’t too impressed about taking me in so we took it upon ourselves to get a property, not that we wanted to do that, but at the time we didn’t really have a choice. Then, literally after a fortnight, he died in a motorbike crash. The police said it was his fault even though it wasn’t. He was an only child so that’s why I decided to keep the baby in the end, and I called him after my boyfriend.
I found out I was pregnant about 3 weeks ago, my boyfriend and I had actually just gotten together. I was really nervous and frightened, but the idea grows on you and at first I was scared but I knew straight away there was no way I was gonna get rid of it or anything. We still don’t know the gender but I hope it’s a girl. We like the name Lila.
It’s going to be a boy, but we broke up. He’s not who I thought he was, he didn’t want any of it. The whole way through our relationship he was with other girls and I didn’t know it. I just don’t know what’s going on with him. He’s always at the skate park, he doesn’t work or do anything with his life.
I wanted a cattery in my back garden, that’s what I wanted! The only reason why I ever slept with my first child’s father was because I really wanted to be with him and I thought if I don’t do what he wants me to do he’s not gonna be with me. I was 15 and still in school. We’d been in a long relationship, he said we should keep the baby and then all of a sudden he just messaged me saying, “I don’t wanna be with you any more”, which broke my heart because I’d kept her and everything and I was going through a rough time. I really needed someone and he just… but yeah… it’s just life.
I got pregnant the first time at the age of 15. A lot of my family were telling me to get an abortion because I was such a wild child, constantly going out, drinking, but I decided to keep him. Later on I couldn’t cope with his behaviour so I handed him over to my mum and then I got pregnant again at 18.
At first, when I found out I was pregnant, I freaked out. I was scared but I was so happy at the same time, I was really excited. My boyfriend and I had been together for two years and he had always wanted a baby with me. He acted like, “Oh, this is brilliant,” but he didn’t stop taking drugs and I was gonna protect my child no matter what my feelings were, so even though it was hard I had to break up with him.
Marta Giaccone completed an MA in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport, in 2014. She is currently based in the UK and Italy. Her photographic work and research has mainly focused around issues concerning family and youth, with a main interest in the feminine perspective.
“I’ve always felt an urge to document experiences that other people go through, especially those who live totally different lives to the one I do. Kingsmoor Common is based on the concept or notion of a ‘sense of place’ and how this relates to a modern day community that settles in one place. This project is a documentary series focused on a gypsy travelling community in Pembrokeshire, Wales.”
“Being from an area where travellers have settled I’d always imagined what it would be like to shoot a photographic project about a modern day community that has settled in one particular place. Throughout this project I explored the theme of identity and place. I wanted to construct a narrative to depict their way of life to enhance my visual interpretation of what a place is like to an alternate community and how a different community identity is created.”
“My interest comes from ideas about human experiences, in a way these images are constructed with the intent and purpose to comment on preconceived ideas of what a travelling community is like and aims to undermine this nostalgic pre-conception we already associate towards a travelling community.”
This year Lewys graduated from the Coleg Sir Gar Carmarthen with a BA Hons photography degree. Kingsmoor Common is currently on show at The Cardiff Millennium Centre as one of the ‘best graduate projects across Wales for 2014’. The work will also show at Narbeth’s Oriel Que in January 2015.
Lewys’s book Kingsmoor Common is available to buyhere.
Here, Robin Mitchell tells me about his work, ‘Into the Blue’.
“When I was studying Documentary Photography at Newport (2007 – 2010) there was a module called ‘The Grid Project’. The tutors took a map of the area around Newport and literally cut it into sections and handed out the pieces. Each student had to go out and make work in the area of the map they had been given. I thought this was a great idea, although it wasn’t rigorously followed through (no one, for example, took note of what area you had been given!) In my area there was the river, allotments, industrial units, housing and pink limo hire. I chose to work in the Newport Indoor Bowling Centre, I can’t remember why – I think it was because it was raining when I went out looking! I started out attempting traditional, black and white reportage, but it became clear from looking at the earlier images that what was interesting was the variety of shapes that people make when doing what is, ostensibly, the same action. I homed in on this as a subject and my tutors encouraged me to use lights. This was the first time I used studio lights. I developed the project over a couple of months, but the final images came from a one-day shoot.
On the day, I worked with another photography student, Joao Bento, and set up lights at one end of the ‘green’. When the people photographed had finished their usual bowling session they came over to me. I photographed each one four times at most, one shot per bowl, and they were with me only a few minutes. With each shot I was aiming to catch a moment after the ‘wood’ had left their hand but before they lost the bowling position. I wanted to use the camera to freeze the movement and to expose the subtle differences in technique and physicality between them. By cropping out the wood, I was able to focus attention on the human shapes.
Although I had not previously had an interest in bowling, I was impressed by the inclusive nature of the game, how it made allowances for people with a range of mobilities and disabilities. I struggled to think of a title, and ‘Into the Blue’ came to me at the last minute, it was referencing the colour of the bowling green which was unexpected.”
Robin is a freelance photographer working mainly in the arts. Before studying at Newport he worked in theatre for 20 years as a designer and props maker. He lives in Glasgow and regularly photographs with theatre companies, musicians and for film stills. robinmitchellphotography.com
‘The South Wales coal field gave rise to hundreds of collieries. By 1913 Cardiff had become the largest coal exporting port in the world. Following the miners’ strike in 1984 only two deep mines remained working in Wales. Tower Colliery in the Cynon Valley was one of them. The strike was a national struggle and threatened the very future of the industry; Tower endured the full brunt of the conflict, but the comradeship of the workers helped soften the blow of management tactics. After closing in 1994, Tower Colliery reopened in defiance of the large scale pit closure programme under the Thatcher Government. 239 staff pooled their redundancy money and in 1995 Tower reopened as a cooperative and successfully produced coal until its closure in January 2008. This was, and still is, a unique achievement – no other mine, in the history of British coal has been bought by its workforce. Its closure as a deep mine is the end of an era, one that is woven with hardship, oppression and tragedy. The spirit of the Tower miners has never been broken.’
‘The introduction of pithead baths had a huge impact on mining communities and between 1921 and 1952, over 400 were built in Britain. They were designed to create an atmosphere of health and brightness with their flat clean lines and lots of glass to let in natural light.’
‘Many of the images were taken inside the pithead baths, now inaccessible due to deterioration of the building, and have largely been abandoned since 2008. My aim was to capture a sense of poignancy and to represent visually a feeling of hiatus. I found that traces and objects that were no longer needed for the purpose they had been created took on a strange and abstract personality.’
‘The space is heavy with metaphor, doors’ that lead nowhere, keys with no locks, notice boards with nothing to notify. A strange relationship remains between the industrial and the personal; these objects have a narrative of their own. They ask us to look at the overlooked, the familiar, to ponder their significance.’
“I imagine a boat in a middle of a storm carrying all its habitants inside, trying not to lose control. Drunk men and women wearing high heels are about to fall but somehow, they´re all still. This is an ongoing work about a city and its habitants, trying to keep the control of the situation.”
Clémentine Schneidermann’s pictures for ‘Le Bateau Ivre’ were taken in Newport from September 2013 to June 2014. The work is ongoing and it is her personal vision of Newport and how the place affects its habitants.
‘I am mostly interested in how women express their femininity, and how despite difficult situations, they still take care of themselves. I like playing with different genres of photography, from the social documentary to the fashion as it offers more possibilities to interpret the place.’
Clémentine Schneidermann was born in Paris in 1991 and is currently finishing her Masters in documentary photography at the University of South Wales, Newport. She is part of the current Independent AIR artists residency in Denmark and her work was selected for the Ideas Tap Magnum Award in 2013. She currently lives and works between Wales and France.
You can see more of Clémentine’s work here @cschneidermann
Peter Jones contacted us last year, sharing with us his photographs of life as a Welsh farmer. His project ‘Welsh Farming Community’ is a reflection of his working life in Ceredigion, mid Wales.
Peter was born in 1947 in Aberystwyth where he grew up and went to school before leaving to attend a photographic course at Manchester College of Art and Design from 1966-69 where he was influenced by the work of Edward Weston and Tony Ray Jones and an eager follower of Creative Camera.
‘I went to look for work in London and found a job as John Thornton’s first assistant but came home one weekend and never went back, fate lent a hand and I became a farmer. I married, had 2 daughters and didn’t touch a camera for the next 30 years. However, my interest in photography was reawakened when my sister in law entered my name to take part in Ffotogallery’s “Just another Day” project which set out to record what people were doing at the turn of century.’
‘I have, what some might think, an old fashioned belief that a good photograph should stand and communicate on it’s own merit without descriptive text apart from perhaps location. I still shoot film.’
‘In 2008 I was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s Disease which restricts my photography but with a little ingenuity most problems can be overcome. I have never had an exhibition or a proper appraisal of my work due largely to my own apathy and remoteness.’
‘I see a photograph as a communication between viewer and photographer I don’t like labels or explanatory notes which may interfere with this. The picture either speaks or it doesn’t, words won’t change that fact.’
‘If you find your life tangled up with somebody else’s life for no very logical reasons,’ writes Bokonon, ‘that person may be a member of your karass’, (‘Cats Cradle’, Kurt Vonnegut).
‘Sometimes you meet those who surpass friendship, people you meet along the way who you find yourself holding inside your heart. That’s what this project began as, a way to celebrate the ones I feel connected to , whilst trying to confront taboos regarding the body and the way we view nudity. I’d like to think of these photographs not so much as nudes, but portraits of those I feel bound to, who happen to be naked.’
‘Karass is an ongoing project and I have nearly 30 more shoots to do with people interested in getting involved, so it will be interesting to see how the project changes as more people get involved. Maybe it will become more focused about the body and taboos, rather than the bond I feel with my subjects.’
Hannah Saunders is entering her Third Year of University on the Documentary Photography course at Newport and is based in Cardiff. ‘Karass’ is being exhibited in Romania as part of the Secvente Festival of Photography this September.
Hannah is also currently working with other women artists to form a collective named Origin.
This Friday 5th September at 6.30pm is the private view of ‘Made in Wales’ at Oriel Colwyn Gallery in Colwyn Bay.
It’s the second of our ‘Made in Wales’ exhibitions, with some additions to the show we held at Arcade Cardiff in March. The exhibition showcases some of the work that we have featured on our regular blog since we formed in 2013. The list and biographies of the photographers taking part can be found on the Oriel Colwyn website.
We hope you’ll join us for a drink, especially as there’ll be some North Wales beer supplied by the Great Orme Brewery.
Some kind of identity brings together three diverse artists working within the medium of photography. Always pursuing a sense of identity, the work challenges the different approaches to a sensitive yet everyday subject. Through the act of self-portraiture new ways of challenging the approach to oneself physically, mentally and culturally reveal intimate documents.
‘Emma Uwejoma searches for her own identity in the project Ngwako. Through the process of researching a sense of belonging in her Father’s heritage the project discovers the emergence of the Igbo tribe. Although she was raised in the western world with western values, her work aims to confront the traditional role of women in her Father’s background and where she might lie in this way of life. She questions her own identity as she grows up in a different culture.’
‘Jocelyn Allen works predominantly on the changing of her physical state. In the body of work ‘Your Mind & Body is all you’ve got’ a series of intimate portrayals of her body state the intention to bear all, not only physically but also emotionally. From every frown line and marks of aging sculpts a series that defines the passing of time and how our bodies evolve with the general wear and tear through daily life.’
‘Sara Rejaie photographs more emotional depictions of identity. Her more immediate approach forms a blog aesthetic as her ideas form naturally. It becomes organic as each moment links up to the heart of the person in creative control. The maker in this instance is the work and her personality creates the gravitational pull.’
Some Kind of Identity opens at Open Floor, 102 Bute Street, Cardiff on 27th August and is curated by Alexander Norton. The exhibition runs till 3rd September. Their Facebook event page is here.
Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
(William Shakespeare, The Tempest, I. 2. 397-403).
‘My father spent most of his life in, on or near the sea. He was born in Whitstable, Kent, in 1925 and grew up to the sound of gulls and shrimp-sellers. Later, when he joined the RAF, he was stationed in the Far East and brought back small packets of beautiful black-and-white photographs taken with his Leica camera. These show a mixture of exotic gardens, architecture, and beach scenes featuring implausibly large, feathery palm trees and brilliant sunshine.
Later Dad acquired a small dinghy and we would sail this determinedly up and down the River Avon on summer weekends, tacking every minute or so – less on a windy day, as the river was so narrow. He would also take sailing holidays on the North Sea, living on board for several days with new-found friends; these experiences inspired the poetry and short stories he wrote many years later.
Towards the end of his life Dad would take me and his two grandchildren to the Canary Islands every summer, where the white sands and dazzling turquoise sea were always a source of joy to him. He lost his life in the sea in August 2011, off La Oliva Beach outside Corralejo, Fuerteventura. As was his habit, he was floating on his back, looking up into the intense blue of the sky, and his heart simply stopped.
The images made for Full Fathom Five represent my first hesitant steps towards making something positive from the memories of that terrible day.
Like the American photographer Barbara Ess, I am “trying to photograph what cannot be photographed”, and, like her, I use the simplest of pinhole cameras to capture my way of experiencing the world.’
‘Full Fathom Five’ was made using coffee can and biscuit tin cameras using brass pinholes.
Celia Jackson is a senior lecturer in photography at the University of South Wales and work from ‘Full Fathom Five’ is currently on show at Fuse Art Space in Bradford as part of the exhibition Bradford Beach.