“Say ‘Hightown’ to most people in my hometown of Wrexham and they will immediately think of the flats. The off-white blocks between Kingsmills Road and Brynycabanau Road were pulled down in early 2011 – four decades after they were built – when managing their structural problems became unaffordable for the council. Yet while many townspeople condemned them as an eyesore beset by severe social problems, to the residents those flats were home and many were sorry to leave.
The year the flats were torn down, I was awarded an Arts Council Wales-funded commission by Oriel Wrecsam to produce a project marking the changes in Hightown. The Royal Welch Fusiliers and their battalion goats had also vacated this part of town, while the community was changing with the arrival of significant numbers of European Union migrants. Local people were campaigning to save their beloved community centre – once part of the flats complex – from demolition.
The snag was that the Hightown flats which had inspired the commission had already been cleared and the site temporarily landscaped – with many former residents dispersed across town. I spent that summer finding interesting people I could photograph – some of whom had lived in the flats – and recording their stories. The project celebrates a close-knit community and the overlapping lives and experiences which can be found in every neighbourhood.
It was exhibited in Oriel Wrecsam, the library gallery, during the 2011 National Eisteddfod, which was held in the town. I also created a book containing a wider selection of the work and made a photofilm.
My own relationship with Wrexham is nuanced. I spent my first 19 years feeling like an outsider and desperate to escape to the bright lights of a city, but work keeps pulling me back. Two years as a reporter on the local paper greatly softened my feelings towards the town and my time with the people of Hightown reminded me once again that community is about the people in any given area and their relationships with one another.”
Click on the links to see Ciara’s photofilm ‘Highs & Lows’.
If you are anywhere near West Wales in the next week get yourself down to Aberystwyth to catch this stunning new exhibition from photographer James Morris, whose ‘A Landscape of Wales’ we featured earlier on this blog.
Supported by Arts Council Wales, photographer James Morris brings together two distinct bodies of work that explore differing stories observed within the landscape of Israel / Palestine. One documents the scattered remains of the now historic Palestinian presence in much of Israel’s landscape. The second records the physical manifestations of occupation and conflict in the West Bank. Together they are witness to both a cause and a consequence of this unresolved conflict.
Assir Village (unrecognized), al Naqab/Negev.
‘That Still Remains’ confronts the Israeli foundation myth, that Palestine was ‘a land without people, for a people without land’, by documenting the scattered remains from across the country of the now historic Palestinian presence in much of Israel’s landscape. The pictures record the locations of some of the 400 or so Palestinian villages that were cleared of their population, and then purposefully demolished, as a result of the 1948 war. In referencing the impact of this war, which brought about the new state of Israel, the pictures reflect on a principle cause of the subsequent Israeli / Palestinian conflict; and the still unresolved refugee problem.
Route 60, South of Jerusalem, West Bank.
‘When the time comes’ looks at the contemporary landscape of the West Bank in the light of persistent failures to achieve any lasting resolution to the conflict; it is a place where Israeli settler and Palestinians appear to exist in parallel worlds. Through documenting the physical manifestations of conquest, occupation, settlement and control, the work explores the Palestinian urban centers and contrasts the dense, unplanned and under facilitated UN refugee camps that date back to the 1948 war, with the uniform ‘new town’ suburbia of well irrigated, landscaped and strategically located Israeli settlements; deemed illegal under international law.
Y Tir Newydd (The New Land) is Gareth Phillip’s journey, on foot, to some of the most inaccessible areas of Wales. He explains it as “an artistic translation of the furthest points of the Welsh Landscape – north, south, east, west, high and low. An imagined world collides with abstract reality summoning the demons, perils, beauty and mystery that many only experience when voyaging far past the comfortable confines of an urban world.”
(Photography and video by Gareth Phillips, produced by Ling Ang)
“Y Tir Newydd is a personal voyage inspired by a departure from these comforts, aiming to connect and reach the soul of an indigenous landscape left untouched, even forgotten, in the wake of a shift away from the land for the modern world.”
“Phillips ensures the picturesque Wales we might recognise from adverts and holiday brochures, is nowhere to be seen. We’ve strayed far from the beaten track.” Helen Warburton.
A selection of 25 images from ‘Y Tir Newydd’ were exhibited at The Third Floor Gallery, Cardiff from 22nd September to 20th October.
Snowdonia is a national park in North Wales with 1,479 miles of public footpath attracting 6 million visitors annually. It is also home to Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales at 3,560 ft. John Wellings’ project ‘Even the Mountains are Shells’ began during his final year while studying documentary photography at the University of Wales, Newport.
Wellings explores Snowdonia “as a place of great transition. Be it from massive glacial shifts or by more personal social and economic events.
Once the slate producing capital of the world it now relies on tourism and the tales of it’s former glory for survival.
In high season, thousands descend (and ascend), while in winter, only locals and a handful of visitors remain.
Around every corner is a reminder of other times, and embedded in the surface of the surrounding mountains are the memories of those that it supported.
I think my overall aim and direction of the project is to look at the links between people and the land, both presently and over time, the differing ways the land is now used compared to its previous heavily industrialised aspects.”
This work, featuring ‘trig points’ in Wales, is from an ongoing project by Stephen McCoy and Stephanie Wynne to visit and photograph all 314 primary triangulation points that were built and measured between 1936 and 1962 by the Ordnance Survey for the ‘Retriangulation of Great Britain’. “Many people mistakenly think the function of the triangulation (trig) point is to mark the highest point of hills, but the trig points are placed in positions where at least two other points can be seen in order to form triangles for accurate measurement.
The work will provide a comprehensive survey of the British landscape and deals with issues of mapping, representations of the landscape, the layering of history, land use, ownership and boundaries.
The panoramic images seemed to us the most explicit and valid response to the visual experience of reaching the trig point – we, and most people, will turn to look at the view all around. The OS map reference is displayed with each panorama and is paired with an image of each pillar as a further visual reference creating a ‘legend’ for the project.
Even though the locations of the pillars is well documented, there is still a heightened sense of exploration and anticipation based on the uncertainty of access, weather conditions and the disparity between “the real” and the “abstract” of the map view.
The pillars are, through necessity, usually on high points in the landscape. These high points have often been used throughout history, as hill forts, look-outs, beacons etc.
The majority of the pillars are no longer used in mapping, having been superseded by GPS, but those that can be accessed have become totemic as markers in the landscape.
No doubt the project has been influenced by the work of landscape photographers who are analytical rather than “pictorial”. The work of survey photographers who where employed to be as objective as possible – William H Jackson and Timothy O’Sullivan who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey at various points in their careers in the 1870’s, and the work of the New Topographic photographers with their reliance on description and typology, has informed this work.”
McCoy Wynne is a collaboration of photographers Stephen McCoy and Stephanie Wynne.