During the 20th century, the docks at Milford Haven were once brimming with trawlers and the small west Wales town was home to a teeming forest of masts. Milford Haven’s direct access to the Atlantic and the facility of the docks allowed fishermen to come and go at any stage of the tide. ‘700 men worked on Welsh deep sea trawlers, yet today on the west coast of Pembrokeshire, Sean employs just 8’. All that flitters now is an accumulation of leisure yachts tinkling in the wind and burning memories. There is a deep sense of loss within the Welsh town and a fear the fishing community has withered.
My interest for photographing the Welsh-born fishermen aboard the Mercurious was instigated by the desire to experience for myself their way of life and work. Through Creaduriaid Y Mor (Creatures of the Sea) I pursued to discover and explore one of the remaining and toughest manual labour roles in our markets. I wanted to experience the gruelling conditions these fishermen return back to week after week, and discover just what draws them back to sea, each time putting their lives on the line. Knowing the owner of the two largest Welsh trawlers, Mercurious and Stephanie, operating off the Welsh port of Milford Haven, I was keen to take on this ambitious challenge.
Caught up in everyday life, we seem to ignore the significance of the volume of water covering our planet, and the life it provides us. As we continue to rely on it, we have very little idea as to what happens beyond the shore. Having the opportunity to work alongside the crew, not only allowed me to see first-hand how fishermen operate in all types of conditions, but it also gave me an insight into how skilled and complex the craftsmanship of trawler fishing can be.
It soon became apparent that these were no business men, these were creatures of the sea, thriving to keep the fishing community alive and make it a way of life. Allowing these fishermen to have a voice, the photographic imagery exposes the gruelling environments, demanding physicality’s and hardship these weathered men endure.
Alice Andrew is a 3rd year photography student at the University for the Creative Arts. alicerose.format.com
Observations, Collections, Recollections. Pete Davis: A Lifetime in Photography will open at the Gergynog Gallery at The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth on 4th March.
‘The opportunity to review and exhibit six decades of work comes along very rarely for any individual, even if you are lucky, once in a lifetime. However, this is more than just a nostalgic ‘looking back’, the exhibition also contains much new work which offers a glimpse of how my photography might develop further and builds on previous ideas and themes that have interested me over the years’.
‘Ideas and attitudes to creative work alter as time progresses and reactions to particular images change as they are viewed in a different historical and social context from the ones in which they were created. This applies to my own reviewing of this work in addition to the opinions of others. Accordingly, the exhibition features a number of images, some made many decades ago that I have ‘rediscovered’ and never printed before’.
‘Most of the major bodies of work I have undertaken over the years are represented in this exhibition, in addition to images never before seen or printed. Hopefully this will allow viewers to understand my lifelong fascination with particular aspects of the world around us and to observe how I have used various photographic styles and strategies to represent these’.
‘Much of my work may appear to concentrate on the more prosaic elements of our environment; however, photography has the ability to not just represent but to reveal and re-present these in a form that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. I have always loved almost every aspect of life and our environment and it has always been my intention to capture those seemingly mundane moments and surroundings that might pass unnoticed unless observed by a sympathetic eye. These observations have then been collected into coherent bodies of work that allow for the recollections in the future’.
The large format photography of Welsh photographer Dr Pete Davis can be seen in many collections including The Arts Council of Wales, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, National Library of Wales, Museo Genna Maria, Sardinia, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Pete has been taking photographs since the age of eleven. After leaving Splott Secondary Modern School in Cardiff at the age of fifteen and working at Cardiff University, he spent ten years as an advertising and fashion photographer in Cardiff. Pete moved to rural West Wales in 1977 from where he has embarked on field trips around the British Isles, Europe and the USA with his large format camera. For eighteen years Pete was senior lecturer in documentary photography at the University of Wales, Newport and for nine of those years the course leader. Pete is currently a visiting lecturer at a number of universities and also engaged with his photographic projects and research collaborations. He has received numerous research grants and awards and was the winner of the 2002 Wakelin Purchase Prize for Welsh artists.
Recent international exhibitions have included the Festival Interceltique in Lorient, Brittany, Gallery International, Baltimore, USA, at the Feick Arts Center, Poultney, Vermont, USA and at the Fotomuseum, Antwerp. Pete was also been an artist in residence and conducted masterclasses at the Polytechnic, Porto, Portugal, Green Mountain College, Vermont, USA,and as part of the Ulster Arts Festival, Belfast. He completed his Ph.D in Fine Art at Aberystwyth University in 2009.
John Llewellyn Evans was born in 1893 in Newport, and grew up in Whitchurch, Glamorgan. A bright boy, he spent a happy childhood with his mother, father, brother and sister, attending Cardiff High School before receiving an Exhibition Scholarship to attend the Monmouth School for Boys in 1908. He left after a year, however, to work at a Bank in Cardiff. In 1913, he left his home, his family and friends, and embarked on an adventure to Canada, where he soon got a job for the Union Bank, and was appointed a position as bank clerk in Yorkton, Sasketchewan. It was this chain of events which meant that, when World War 1 broke out in 1914, the young Welshman enlisted in the Canadian Army. After a series of training programmes and recommendations, he arrived back in Europe on the SS Olympia in 1916, and, after a short stint at the Canadian Military School in Shorncliffe, Kent, was shipped to France in September of that year to join the 54 Battalion.
On St David’s Day 1917, John Llewellyn Evans fell to his death during the preparations for the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Writing to his mother, his Colonel reports that “he fell when gallantly leading on his men, and that his body was actually the furthest into the German lines of the whole of the British. It is something to be proud of to have given a son like that.”
This information about my Great Uncle was discovered by my nephew during his studies at Sandhurst. Now an Officer with the Welsh Guards, my nephew Tom organised a family pilgrimage to the Pas de Calais last March, to follow in the footsteps of John Llewellyn. We visited Vimy Ridge, his graveside at Villers au Bois, and the beautiful Ring of Remembrance memorial at Lens. The trip was incredibly moving; not one of us had known about the bravery of our ancestor, least of all my father who, on 23 March 2016, placed a single rose on his Uncle’s grave.
I was particularly taken by the land at Vimy Ridge. Now owned by Canada, the land has been left without having been farmed or interfered with. The undulating mounds covered in grass and trees bring to mind a place where magical creatures may live, but the truth is far from magical. These are the scars of shells and trenches; the battle forever embedded into the memory of the land.
No 473117; A man of the Great War began as a book for my family, as a record of this trip and as a memorial to John Llewellyn Evans. However, as I began working on it and looking back at the photographs I had taken during our time in France, it occurred to me that this was much more than a personal story. This is a story of the other 687 men who died that day; the other 3,598 who died during the Battle of Vimy in April 1917; and the other 17 million men who died during World War 1.
Each of us has our own story of an ancestor who gave his life for the future of our country 100 years ago, in the belief that he was doing was going to change the lives of future generations. The landscape of these battles tells their tale. This project is to remember all of those brave men; and to teach our children about their sacrifice.
No 473117; A man of the Great War book and accompanying exhibition launches on 24 February at The Army & Navy Club, Pall Mall, London. Register to attend here.
The Landscape of Conflict, an event exploring the nature of photographing past wars and the memory of the land, takes place on 25 February at The Army & Navy Club with Carole Evans, Andrew Youngson, Marc Wilson & Gina Glover. More details and registration here.
The exhibition will be touring to the Monmouth School for Boys in June this year.
Shed – ‘a simple roofed structure used for arden storage, to shelter animals, or as a workshop. A larger structure for storing or maintaining vehicles or other machinery’. However, for many people sheds mean much more and this blog post shares a mini-series of photographs by Joshua T Gibbons of men and their sheds in Pyle.
Equidistant between Cardiff and Swansea, Pyle is a village in the Welsh county of Bridgend found less than a mile from the M4 motorway. These are photographs featuring lifelong inhabitants of Pyle, within the intimate spaces in which they find so much solace and pride, Y Sied.
Whilst the area’s youth often seek employment in Swansea or Cardiff or further afield, ‘if you speak with the older generation though, they’ve a very different attitude. They are content, happy and proud to be a part of this sleepy community in Wales. Many of the men who express this contentment have something else in common, a hobby’.
‘These pursuits, that they care for deeply, range from fishing and hunting to astronomy, motorbikes and woodwork. Whatever the endeavor, they will almost always require a space to store equipment or carry out the hobby itself. This area is exclusively their own domain where they will spend countless hours, days and years. In this part of the world, these little spaces will usually be found at the bottom of the familial homes garden’.
This Saturday 21st January sees the opening of Blaenau Gwent Photography Special by Sebastian Bruno at The Kickplate Gallery in Abertillery.
The exhibition is a compilation of four different photography supplements made for the Abertillery and Ebbw Valleys ‘Dynamic’, Blaenau Gwent’s only independent newspaper. Each supplement focused on one specific community, Swffryd, Blaina, Tredegar and Cwm. The purpose of the supplement was to disseminate the work within the local community, making it accessible to an audience that would not necessarily engage with the gallery space. The Arts Council of Wales, through a project development grant, has supported the production of the project and final exhibition.
The show will also include other images that Sebastian has been making in the area. In his work, he applies different strategies to create a complex narrative structure that results in a distinctive representation of a place and its people.
Blaenau Gwent Photography Special opens at the Kickplate Gallery, 26 Church Street, Abertillery, NP13 1DB from 12-5pm on Saturday 21st January.
Sebastian Bruno (born in 1989 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a documentary photographer who has been living and working in Wales since 2010. He is a graduate of the Documentary Photography course at the University of South Wales, Newport. His work has been acknowledged and has been awarded by several photography institutions across the UK and continental Europe, among them Magnum photos and more recently Photomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland.
Blaenau Gwent Photography Special is the final show of a series of five exhibitions presented over the past eight months at the Kickplate Gallery focusing in the past and present of The Valleys. The other exhibitions, Where: As it was by David Hurn , How Green Was my Valley by Ron McCormick, Coal Faces/Changing Places by Roger Tiley and Heads of the Valleys by Clementine Schneidermann.
We’ve been pleased to feature and exhibit Pete Davis’ work in the past, showing his ‘Photographs of Cardiff 1969-1977’ at our ‘Made in Wales’ touring group shows. This blog post presents some of Pete’s ongoing work examining the village and memorial halls that can be found across Wales. ‘Built for a variety of reasons at significant times in the history of a particular village, these structures are icons of the cultural life and architectural styles of the time. Most were built as a form of memorial, whether for the fallen of world wars or another national event considered to be significant by the community. Many were paid for by public subscription and used local labour to construct them. At a time when there may have been more of a community spirit and little in the way of home entertainment and communication, they were an important focus for village life’.
‘Over the years, many fell into states of disrepair and use as changes in society and the demographic of the village altered the perceived needs and aspirations of the community. The villages have also to a large extent altered visually. Modern homes and gardens have changed the appearance of these communities in addition to all the alterations in many other items considered necessary for modern day living’.
‘Road layouts, car parking, contemporary tastes in homes, gardens and décor, are all clues to how society has altered since the time the halls were constructed. In recent years there appears to have been a resurgence of interest and use of these halls by the villagers. Many have been recently refurbished and used again for any number of activities that brings the community together’.
‘In photographing these structures using the strategy of a triptych, I have attempted to indicate both the original style, in relative isolation, of the hall as built, and how, to either side of the building, the immediate environment and community might have developed since. Some have altered much more than others, which itself is an indication of the differences in the various locations and how they have developed, or not, over the years’.
Pete Davis has work being exhibited in a number of upcoming exhibitions:
‘Pete Davis Observations – Collections – Recollections – A Lifetime in Photography’, a retrospective exhibition will open at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth on March 4th 2017 with an accompanying lecture on March 15th.
The large format photography of Welsh photographer Dr Pete Davis can be seen in national and international art collections. These include The Arts Council of Wales, Museo Genna Maria and the Victoria and Albert Museum. For eighteen years Pete was senior lecturer in documentary photography at the University of Wales, Newport and for nine of those years the course leader. Pete is currently a visiting lecturer at a number of universities and also engaged with his photography projects and research collaborations.
Our family farm lay in the shadow of Mynydd Troed (‘Foot Mountain’ in English) and its distinctive shape was carved out in the last Ice Age, as was the lake in the valley below. The area, a popular tourist destination, is nestled in the midst of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The experience of eking out a living in this striking but demanding landscape is what shaped our lives. Despite this, these pictures do not aim to create a predictable, imagined geography. The images are not the stereotypical faces of weather worn farmers, but an intimate portrait of people and places that are familiar to me.
It is this intimacy that provides my sense of belonging to the local community. However, this is not an enclosed community, with a fixed identity. To ally locality with community can be misleading, as there is never just one community with a single sense of identity.
These farmers have many different social connections, both local, national and international. This place, like any other, is as multifaceted as its people, a place of complex networks of social relations. These images are an articulation of those relations, a dialogue between photographer and subject and as such an exploration of self.
An important part of the work focuses on children and young people. This is not merely a nostalgic trip into childhood experience, but rather an interest in the next generation, and how well equipped they are to face the challenges of farming in the 21st century.
Born in Brecon Muriel Gallan completed a BA in Photojournalism at Swansea Metropolitan University in 2013 and an MA in Documentary Photography at the University of South Wales, Newport in 2015. A farmer’s daughter, who has previously trained as a counsellor and worked with people in a variety of challenging arenas, her photographic work and studies focus predominately on her love of people and their connection to the land. Muriel’s work has been exhibited nationally in a number of group shows.
A unique photography exhibition, supported by the Aberafan Shopping Centre and the Port Talbot Civic Centre, opens on October 6th in Port Talbot. It features an international group of 12 young documentary photographers (from The University of Westminster Documentary Photography course) who have worked on a collaborative project about the town’s history, architecture and community within the past few months. The project had its genesis in the aftermath of Tata Steel’s announcement of plans to sell their UK based assets last March. These documentary projects intend to sift deeper than conventional media coverage of Port Talbot, investigating multiple diverse social, cultural and human issues in the town.
The show, coordinated collectively by the photographers, is organised as an expression of their gratitude towards the residents of Port Talbot, and aims to raise awareness of the continuing uncertainty threatening the steelworks, which has been such a vital lifeline for the town’s economy and prosperity.
The projects presented include: Bypassed by Nick St.Oegger, an exploration of the physical and psychological effects of the M4 motorway; 1/10,000,000 m³ by Shun Wen Yu, which gives a human prospect to the steelworks through the workers’ powerless feelings regarding the future; a study of “the unexplored” by Debasish Sharma who dedicates his work to the leisure activities in the town as a potential opportunity to bring tourism; Mariela Ganeva’s portraits which capture the economic difficulties but also the authentic charm of Port Talbot’s local businesses; End of the Road by Anne Laerke Koefoed, exploring the residents’ uncertainty for the future combined with a small enduring hope; The System by Calvin K. Chan as an examination through psycho-geography of the environment’s impact on the living quality and social changes of the community; Laurène Becquart’s series, I’ll Be There (Now in a Minute), that question the life of Port Talbot’s teens, their personalities and ambitions by picturing their private space and their social and public interests; The Shifting Sands Project by Yves Salmon that picture the scenic and changing Aberavon Beach in Port Talbot through portraits, landscapes and memories;
Sara Taglioretti’s Supreme Pool, a series of empty spaces and buildings that represent expectations and unfulfilled promises; Change by Jana Rajcova, a double-face project drawing parallels between her father’s story as a former factory worker and the people of Port Talbot; Hic Sunt by Amir Makar which recalls the predominance of dragons in South Wales; and Hannah Leadbeater’s postcards of the area that collects inhabitants’ viewpoints of their own town in a more genuine and picturesque way.
In The Winds’ Wakes. 7th to 11th October (11am to 5.30pm). Opening event: October 6th at 4pm. Aberafan Shopping Centre, Top Floor. Port Talbot, SA13 1PB.
The Eye International Photography Festival, Aberystwyth.
We’re excited to be taking part in this year’s The Eye Festival in Aberystwyth (September 30th – 2nd October 2016). The festival is held at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, one of the largest arts centres in the UK. Day or weekend tickets are available here.
The Port Talbot Bypass was Wales’ first motorway and the first part of what would become the larger M4. Conceived in the 1930s but finished in 1994, the M4 provided a much-needed economic link between England and the historically depressed south of Wales. It served as a major upgrade to the previous main route between the two countries, the A48, which offered motorists a slow, often perilous journey along winding roads. When the 4.5 mile long stretch was opened in 1966, the town was still experiencing a boom period due to the nearby steelworks, which employed close to 20,000 people. Issues with traffic had been worsening due to an increase in motorists and a growing shift to road based shipping routes. Traffic jams through Port Talbot were a common sight, made worse by a railway crossing that periodically halted traffic, making simple trips across town burdensome.
Thus, the bypass initially proved to be a miracle for dispersing traffic and speeding up trips between Cardiff and Swansea. Over 400 men had toiled since 1963 to meet the deadline set by the Welsh Office, coinciding with the 1966 Royal National Festival, held in Aberavon. Partially rising over the town on pillars, the bypass was hailed as a major engineering achievement for Wales, even thought to one day become a tourist attraction. Behind the fanfare laid the fact that over 200 houses, three churches and several schools had been destroyed to make way for the motorway. Despite the advances, the bypass has left a lasting effect on the physical and psychological landscape of Port Talbot.
In the years following the opening of the bypass those living near it had to adjust to the realities of their new situation. Noise and pollution levels were elevated, as well as incidents of tires and other parts falling from over the motorway’s edge. While some improvements were made to raise the motorway barrier to increase safety levels and reduce noise, they were slow coming. While initially accepting the situation as necessary for progress, residents fought for the installation of double glazed windows or compensation from the Welsh Office, during the late 1980s reconstruction work. These requests were subsequently denied, with any housing improvements being left to owners and tenants.
Today Port Talbot remains forever changed from the town it was during the boom of the 1950s and 1960s. As the M4 expanded, more motorists began to simply drive around the town rather than through it. Within several years businesses along the old high street and town centre began to close due to the lack of business from passing motorists. Additionally, as construction continued on stretches of the M4 in the 1970s, much of the town centre of Port Talbot was destroyed and repurposed, leaving little of what residents had known before to be a bustling community centre. The short sightedness of certain design features in the motorway also began to appear, as the cost saving two lane sections soon grew congested. While most will only ever see Port Talbot from above, residents must still confront signs of the motorway’s effect on their town on a daily basis.
In March 2016 Tata Steel, who currently operate the steelworks, announced plans to sell their entire UK operations. The move potentially threatens the remaining 4000 jobs at the steelworks, the loss of which would be catastrophic for the economy of Port Talbot. Negotiations for a new buyer are currently stalled, leaving the future of Port Talbot’s steel industry and the town itself shrouded in uncertainty. The closure of the steelworks could mean the final step in a complete transformation for Port Talbot, taking it from a bustling icon of mid-century progress to a virtual ghost town. To drive the M4 in south Wales is to experience one of the most important technological achievements in its post-war history. Yet the town where it started, the gleaming icon of industrial strength, remains literally and metaphorically bypassed.
Nick St.Oegger is currently completing a Master’s program in documentary photography at the University of Westminster. You can see more of Nick’s work here and his ‘Bypassed’ project website here.