Rhiwlas

Rhiwlas

About this Project

During 1980/81 I lived with a rural community in Bala, North Wales photographing all aspects of working life. The historical Rhiwlas estate provided a wealth of material to work with, from farming on both the rich flood plain of the rivers Tryweryn and Dee to the harsh mountain grazing of Cwm Hesgin above Llyn Celyn.

I documented all aspects of estate work from the gardener and maintenance crew to the baliff and cowman. Sheep sales, abattoir, county and local shows, sheep dog trials, shoots, were all photographed during the year. I exhibited the work in Bala at the end of my time on the estate when all those involved in the project came together to view a selection of prints from the archive.

The work began at undergraduate level but has since taken off in further directions. I re-visited the area again in 1995 to relaunch the exhibition and to complement it with new work . A book was also launched during the Eisteddfod of that year which was held on the Rhiwlas estate land. It combined the images from the project with new contemporary Welsh writing. The exhibition subsequently toured Wales and beyond.

Its now over thirty years since the first images were taken and I feel a responsibility to archive the work properly, which will entail taking the work back to Bala and involving the local community in providing as much information as possible pertaining to the work. From the original negatives I have digitised over a thousand images all which need comprehensive documentation to add real value to the collection.

I kept a detailed diary of every day during my time there in the eighties and this will also inform the images. Every photograph taken can be identified to a particular time and place and with the help of the local community it should be possible to add considerably to this.

Having worked as a photographer for The National Museum Of Wales for a number of years prior to moving into education I understand the importance of properly archiving such work. I had the privilege of working closely with the archivist and printing from the vast archive of images held at St.Fagans, handling glass plates well over a hundred and fifty years old. These had been documented with each one having a separate card that accompanied each plate. The amount of information on them varied greatly, some having details of everyone in the photographs, where and when they were taken, whilst others lacked information of any kind and begged for the story to be told.

For future generations I want my work to fall into the category that begs nothing and gives all.

Project Timeline

1977

Decide I would like to pursue photography as a career after attending a talk by the American photographer Ralph Gibson.

1978

First year studying photography West Surrey College of Art and Design - decide to move into the genre of documentary photography.

1979

Spend a very influential three week work experience with Dartmoor photographer Chris Chapman. Also heavily influenced by the work of Chick Chalmers, Gus Wylie and James Ravillious.

1980

Begin the Rhiwlas project, living with the community on the estate.

1981

Project continues into late March - ends with a major exhibition in Bala of the years work.

1982

Show goes to various locations in North Wales and Liverpool.

1983

Major exhibition in Rutland County museum, Oakham, Rutland.

1985

Exhibition in Welsh Folk Museum - Cardiff, where I become their senior photographer.

1987

National Museum of Wales purchase exhibition for their permanent collection.

1991

Print from collection wins BBC Countryfile competition - BBC do a feature on the project.

1996

Revisit Rhiwlas to update the collection. Six Welsh poets commissioned to write to the work for planned publication.

1997

Hold major exhibition of new and original work from the collection at the National Eisteddfod held on the Rhiwlas estate. ITV do a feature on the project. ‘Rhiwlas’ is published and launched at the Eisteddfod.

1998

Show tours venues across North and Mid Wales.

2010

Begin the process of digitising the collection in preparation for taking it back to the community for comprehensive archiving.

2013

Finish digitising all the images and begin to look for funding and exhibition space to show the work once again in Bala.