This is an online exhibition of student work from the Foundation Degree in Photography at Coleg Gwent Crosskeys Campus, in collaboration with Ffotogallery. The students were asked to produce an archive of documentary photography that sits in place alongside ‘The Valleys Archive’. The students were allowed to choose from a variety of themes (industrial wasteland, regeneration, people, a local society, an overview of a town, empty space) in relation to documenting the South Wales area. The imagery that emerged was both eye opening and visually dynamic. The resulting photographs focus on man-made and natural elements found within the students local area. They also observe rural, human, urban and industrial elements, as well as documenting society and change.
This series of images was captured in North Cornelly. I chose North Cornelly as my home over 25 years ago and have seen it grow into a thriving village. It can have a bright future after the pandemic as it is a natural place for commuters from both Cardiff and Swansea to move to, but it still needs some infrastructure investment which will hopefully come as the Cardiff City Region comes into its own.
For my brief I chose to focus on ‘an overview of a town’ focused around my local town Bargoed based in the South
Wales valleys. I wanted to give life to the town that has been underappreciated over the years and show the town through my eyes. Over a period of 6 weeks I captured around 1500 images with my DSLR camera focusing on different areas of the town as well as at different times of the day. Concentrating on the town itself as well as past developments, I also wanted to incorporate the history of the town and what made it into the place it is today and how it has changed over the last hundred years. This would involve travelling outside of Bargoed to other towns that once was a miners community and try and piece together the history that once made it so popular. I travelled to quite a few areas Blaenavon, Cwmcarn and Treharris, all of which was once a mining community, and all of which are no longer a working mining village but still have memorials surrounding the mining lifestyle.
When I envisioned capturing my town I wanted to show the town being busy and quiet, so that my images would have some life in them due to the fact that Bargoed is not the town it used to be.
For my valleys legacy project I chose to shoot in the village of Peterston-Super-Ely/ Llanbedyr-y-Fro. I chose this village as its where I grew up and I have a lot of memories from my childhood there. I photographed the quirkiness of the area as well as the people who live there.
I chose the theme of empty space and concentrated on the Cwm Coking works site in Beddau. Although not completely empty the site does encompass a large empty area, namely the spoil tip and old railway sidings. Buildings that were once a hive of activity now stand empty and crumbling, decaying, the only activity now from a pair of nesting Peregrine falcons or the guard dog, a toothless and moth-eaten Rottweiler whose bark is worse than his bite.
I photographed in Newport at the river front near the town centre. Newport Gwent is my home town and I choose Newport as an overview of a town for my project. I thought to capture every important aspects of Newport. The river in the images is the river Usk.
My project for ‘Regeneration in Wales’ focuses on the independent businesses that the Welsh Valleys have to offer. We hear a lot about the high street in the media and most of it is negative, how it is dying with more people choosing to spend their money online. With Covid and the lockdowns this has also confounded that. I wanted to do a series of images showing people what their small town and village high streets have to offer, from a Children’s second hand clothe store to a business selling eco friendly products and grocery refill station, to the coffee shop that brings the community together over fantastic cake. I wanted to show the Welsh people that we have such fantastic stores in Wales and we must do everything to support them, before we lose them.
For my project we worked for the Ffotogallery in Cardiff. We had to take a series of photos based off the valleys archives that started in 1984 but not the same. We could be inspired by other photographers’ styles from the Valleys Archives project from 1984 but we had to do our own project that was based in the valleys. We had the choice between regeneration, people, a local society, an overview of a town, empty spaces, architecture or the hopes and aspirations for the future of Wales. I chose a mix between an overview of a town and Empty spaces. I chose these subjects because I was overviewing a town that was basically empty because of the economic changes that have happened over the past ten years due to a super store opening on the entrance to the town and online shopping that is affecting the town which is leading people away from the town itself and more people are going there to shop instead which is killing the Highstreet in many places not just Bargoed. I chose Bargoed because that was the town I grew up in and I have seen it go from its best to worst within the last 5 years. I wanted to document how bad it was getting as a town. I heard that Bargoed was a big town thirty years ago but all of a sudden it has declined in popularity and has become one of the quietest and run-down places I have been to.
Given the broad theme of documenting South Wales, I wanted to give a twist on the already explored themes across the archive, deciding on ‘Forgotten Newport’ as my project idea, creating a visual documentary of the history, and true bones of Newport that have been overlooked or forgotten through the passing of time, but that make Newport more than the bad reputation it has developed. Walking through the streets and town of Newport with my eyes fully open gave way to a whole different view of the to town I grew up in, finding hidden treasures and historical markers in the unlikeliest of places. Newport Indoor Market is a beautiful building that I have sadly watched decline through the years yet holds many important memories for myself and to the town of Newport. With a project such as this, I would hope to spread the need to fully take in what is around us and appreciate the areas we live in, and what makes them what they are.
For this project I chose the theme “An Overview of a Town”, I based this on my village Penbryn. I decided to shoot my village as it is where I have lived for 30 years and where my family have grown up.
I wanted to shoot, the streets, their names and the local pub which is the centre of the village.
After I photographed my village, I decided to focus on Penallta colliery as my final images, as without this colliery my village would not exists and also I wanted to show the portrait of a South Wales mine after it has closed and the images of it today.
I spent a lot of my childhood running through the arches of a viaduct and looking up to marvel at its height, wondering how it was built and placed, just here, behind my house. The viaduct has always been a constant in my childhood. The visual start to my day’s adventures, the quick sign that I’m not far from home even though I feel like I’ve travelled miles. The end, guiding my way home after a hard day playing, exhausted and hungry. They now bring back the fond memories of innocence and this wild abundant freedom to explore. Cefn Coed Viaduct, Merthyr Tydfil. I grew up with one right at the bottom of my garden and it played an integral part of my childhood, running through its arches, looking up at this huge colossal structure and all the wild imaginations and wonderings kept me fascinated. The local Viaduct played a huge role in my life growing up, I was often running around the arches as a youngster and using it as a homing beacon as I grew a little more adventurous. I used to look up at the structure with awe and wonderment trying to imagine when it was built and by who.
These images are from my Valleys project, they depict regeneration around the area of Ebbw Vale. Most of the images show the old steel works area and the new buildings that were built on this area including the college, leisure centre and mechanical link paid for by European funding. One of my first year projects in year 1 was the Valley’s Legacy, which for myself involved taking photos of the old and new buildings in Ebbw Vale and what has happened since the closure of the Steel Works there. I also went to Blaenavon to document the deteriation in the town itself and also Waunlwyd where I saw this picture of a billboard on the end of a row of terraced houses. With advertising on the internet taking over, these old style billboards are now in decline and this one seemed to stand out to me.
Them Back Lanes
An insight into the back lanes of Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent.
The back lanes have long been forgotten and have the sense of “out of sight, out of mind” with many falling into disrepair. The walls have the characteristics of sedimentary rock, with layers being built upon layers, over the decades.
These lanes, appearing grubby and abandoned to most, are the veins of this town. I decided that I wanted to continue with an overview of Abertillery, but paying particular attention to its forgotten back lanes. The great thing about venturing deep into the concrete scene that was the lanes, is that I had to go on foot. Narrow and not at all friendly to new modern vehicles, it was almost impossible to drive down most of them. This gave me the opportunity to capture details I might otherwise have missed. I spent day after day winding through the maze system which was hidden by well maintained house fronts, a stark contrast to the rear of the properties. It soon became apparent that these cold, hard paths were out of sight and out of mind. Laden with litter and dog foul. I hoped that the images I captured would increase awareness of the misuse of the lanes, lanes which sit dormant right outside peoples houses.
Walk with me…
Slumbering on hilltop is the old historic town of Llantrisant. One of the oldest towns in Wales, it has independent shops, is full of character and also has some beautiful countryside surrounding it.
My valley’s legacy project was linked to the theme “empty spaces”, as I recorded my journey from my local town in Maesycwmmer all the way up to Penallta Colliery to show the empty spaces and abandonment left behind by mankind since shutting its coal mine in 1991. The journey I was quite familiar with as when I was a kid, I would go on a lot of family walks and bike rides up the cycle track up to Penallta Parc which is close to the colliery and I also took photos of it as part of my studies. My series of images show the significance of Penallta Colliery and shows how run down, abandoned it is and how much it has changed over the years.