Last November we were pleased to speak at the ‘Lens 2014: Festival of Welsh Documentary Photography’ where another of the speakers was photographer Amanda Jackson. On Friday 25th July Amanda’s work ‘To Build a Home’ opened at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The series is a study of the people of Lammas Tir Y Gafel Eco Village and the surrounding community, focusing on the North Pembrokeshire settlement near Glandwr.
Coed Y Tylluan
‘Amanda’s approach to photography is to get to know her subjects well, allowing her to create intimate portraits of the people within their surroundings. With previous series’ including The British Eccentrics and Alternative Living, she has always been interested in people living on the edges of mainstream society. During her first photography shoot with Lammas in 2009, Amanda fell in love with the area, the people and the way of life. So much so that in early 2010, she relocated to land beside the village, and now has her own land nearby. She was delighted to receive a grant in 2013 from The Arts Council of Wales to produce the series shown here. All the photographs are shot on medium format colour film, a process Amanda favours over digital. At a time when people are so bombarded by digital technology and images, she feels that film photography still has an artistic edge and forces a more considered approach to creating a body of work.’
‘As well as capturing the day to day activities, Amanda aims to show a mix of community life through the people that live there. Some of the photographers will not only meet expectations of what living in an Eco Village would be like, but feel familiar; others will surprise. In photographs such as “YouTube Friday” we see how the people are embracing modern day technology but in a sustainable way, using hydroelectricity.’
Tyddyn Hedd 2
‘In a society that increasingly shelters children from harm, perhaps at the expense of freedom, the photographs of the children of the village may invoke anything from wistfulness to fear in the viewers. These children are free to roam away from busy main roads, but also live and play in an ongoing construction site. We also see adults, including parents, working their plots or enjoying some down time.’
Cân Yr Adar
Plas Helyg 2
‘Through these photos, the photographer shows the viewer a glimpse of the lives of these people living a way of life that used to be ordinary but now must be chosen. Sometimes contradictory, often humorous, these photographs evoke a timelessness while capturing a growing modern movement.’
Berllan Dawel (You Tube Friday)
Amanda Jackson is a Midlands and Pembrokeshire based photographer, specializing in portraiture and interiors. Early on in her career she realised her passion lay with photographing people and places on the edges of mainstream society. After completing an HND in photography in 2003, Amanda spent 4 years in London working as a freelance photographer’s assistant. She returned to Hereford and completed a photography degree in 2008, gaining a First Class hons. Amanda’s work has been exhibited at The Empire Gallery in London where she won the portraiture category of the 2008 DegreeArt Signature Photography Awards.
Other exhibitions include The Hereford Photo Festival, Rhubarb Rhubarb (Birmingham), D&AD (London), The New Designers exhibition (Islington Business Centre) and DKNY in Bond Street’s New Designer’s Showcase. Amanda is represented by Young Photographers United (YPU) and DegreeArt.
In 2013 Amanda was awarded a grant from The Arts Council of Wales for a photographic project based on the Lammas Eco Village and the surrounding community which forms the series “To Build A Home” which is on show at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre until September 19th 2015.
James O Jenkins
Caldey is a small island located south of Tenby in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Photographer Francesca Jones spent two years arranging her permission to stay on the island and was allowed to spend two weeks there working as a volunteer and photographing its inhabitants in 2015.
‘Home to roughly 25-30 permanent residents and a monastic order of 10 Cistercian monks, Caldey is classed as one of the Holy Islands of Britain and has a history spanning 1500 years. Lying 3 miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Caldey is reachable by a 25 min boat trip. Home to diverse wildlife, rare fauna and rich in architectural history, the unique atmosphere and enchantment of the Island is almost tangible.’
Sea mist on Caldey’s north shore.
Father Gildas is responsible for the laundry and is also the cook. He first came to Caldey in 1983.
‘Having first visited as a child, I felt compelled to return driven by a long held fascination about the people who choose Caldey as a home and the intricacies of life there. I spent 2 weeks, working as a volunteer in the garden or helping with housekeeping in my spare time. Alongside this I was able to connect with and document some of the residents and monks, whilst having the time and space to discover the beauty and fragility of the island for myself.’
Bethan, who was once a resident and pupil at the closed school house, works in the cafe. She lives on the mainland but travels to work by boat each day during the summer.
Dining Hall of the monastery.
Father Jan from Holland trained as a calligrapher and stone carver which he still practices in the Abbey workshop.
‘To be a resident on the island means to have a role; aiding the monastery to continue in it’s existence as well as supporting one another as a community. A practical disposition is a prerequisite as well as a resilient nature. The residents who stay the longest are the ones who are in possession of an ability to adapt to and embrace the unpredictable nature of the environment. Winters can be harsh and prolonged. In 2014, the cargo boats were unable to sail for 7 weeks leaving the residents cut off from the mainland and destructive storms caused massive coastal damage and severe flooding.’
John has lived on the island with his wife Veronica for 40 years and is the commerce manager. He is also the point of contact for Trinity House regarding the island lighthouse which was build in 1829 and was powered by gas until 1997.
Brother Titus, who is the guest master, holds discussions with his guests in the monastic library.
Brother Luca is the accountant and gardener.
‘I endeavoured to learn about the human experience of living on Caldey; the frameworks to which daily lives adhere to, interactions with one another and how the population inhabit their environment. Although, to the outside world, it can appear an isolated place, many people I encountered expressed an overriding sense of freedom. I learned that the population are linked by a common desire; one of a simpler and more spiritual existence.’
Father Daniel is the Abbot and the baker. Shortbread from the Abbey is sold in the shop.
Rita is a resident of Caldey for over 35 years and lives alone in a bungalow just outside the village. Although long retired she still oversees the management of the water supply and is the organist.
Access to ‘Sandtop’ was severely limited due to the storms in 2014 and is now accessible by rope.
Francesca Jones lives in Cardiff and works throughout the UK. She began working as a photographer’s assistant three years ago whilst working on her own projects and portfolio.
Her work has been exhibited nationally as part of Portrait Salon 2014 as well as part of a group show at The Abacus in Cardiff. She was also a finalist in the 2013 Association of Photographers Awards and in January 2015 was selected to attend the Magnum Professional Practice in London.
James O Jenkins
John Paul Evans
‘In his memoirs, Stephen Fry remarked on an encounter he had with Alastair Cooke. After shaking hands, the writer and broadcaster synonymous with Letter from America, informed Fry that he was shaking the hand of someone who had shook the hand of Bertrand Russell. When Fry displayed amazement, the man of letters added that it didn’t stop there, and that Bertrand Russell knew Robert Browning and Bertrand Russell’s aunt had danced with Napoleon.’
‘This example of ‘degrees of separation’, a concept which influenced the early thought on social networks, reminded me of a curious connection between my homeland of south Wales, the promised land of America, the notion of home and the politics of otherness. The sentimental ballad “home sweet home”, written by John Howard Payne in 1822, and adopted after his death as a unifying propaganda during the American Civil War, offered solace in a time where a nation was divided or split geographically.’
‘The song became synonymous with the opera singer Adelina Patti who was described by Giuseppe Verdi in 1877 as being perhaps the finest singer who had ever lived. Abraham Lincoln famously implored the singer to console him with the ballad after the loss of his son Willie to typhoid. The talisman of home offering comfort and protection in a time of mourning.’
‘Oscar Wilde, a man famous, and sometimes infamous, for his use of words referenced Patti in his fiction. On his tour of America the aesthete attended a performance by the singer as a closing entertainment of the Cincinnatti Opera Festival. Wilde was taken backstage to meet Adelina and the experience was to have a profound effect on the writer. He included references to Patti in his only novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, a strange kismet that seemed to foretell his impending destiny. After Wilde’s disgrace and downfall the country to offer Wilde refuge and ‘home’ was France, the nation that offered Liberty in symbolic form to America. Paris would become his home and his final resting place. In the nineteenth century, Britain was not a place to offer ‘home sweet home’ to the homosexual.’
‘In the latter part of her life, Patti resided in the Swansea valley in her retirement home at Craig y Nos, where she built her own theatre. She died in the Welsh castle, but her final resting place would be alongside her beloved Rossini in Père Lachaise, a Parisian locale she would share with Wilde after death.’
‘These serendipitous events reflect the arbitrary possibilities of our social networks. The pervasive sentiment offered by this ballad has permeated generations and centuries and presents us with an idea that should make us reflect on how we connect with others, how we understand our place in the world, and how we generate discourse of belonging and otherness.’
John Paul Evans is a Welsh born photographic artist who now lives in Devon. As an academic, he has lectured in Photography and Art at University of Wales Trinity St David, Swansea and Cardiff School of Art. He has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work was screened as part of the Voies Off Festival in Arles 2014. Solo exhibitions include Bed Sheet Dreams 2005 ‘The Room Gallery’ London. A Different Point of View 1999, CBAT Cardiff & MAC Centre Birmingham, Dark Secrets…Mortal Thoughts 1997, a touring exhibition commissioned by Newport Museum & Art Gallery, and Hunks & Heroes 1996, Castlefield Gallery Manchester. Selected group shows include; Pride Photo Awards 2014 – Amsterdam, Uncertain States – Brighton Photo Biennial, From Common Differences-Diffusion International Festival of Photography 2013, Unreliable Truths- The Glynn Vivian Gallery 2008.
During October John Paul Evans’ work will be featured in ‘Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography‘ organised by Ffotogallery.
Lens Culture profile
James O Jenkins