A Fine Beginning: Made in Wales

Phil Coomes
Picture editor


The photographic collective is not a new idea - but it seems to be enjoying a resurgence, with small bands of photographers finding common ground to work together on combined projects or each taking a different angle on a theme or region.

The latest of these to catch my eye is A Fine Beginning, which was established last year by James O Jenkins and offers a platform to photographers working in Wales. Their first exhibition opens on 14 March at Arcade Cardiff and runs until the end of the month.

The exhibition contains work from Gawain Barnard, Jack Latham, Abbie Trayler-Smith and James O Jenkins, as well as selected images from other photographers they have featured on their blog.

Here's a selection of the work on show.

Abbie Trayler-Smith

Image source, Abbie Trayler-Smith

The Big O is a study of the children behind the obesity statistics, by Abbie Trayler-Smith, which was awarded second place in one of the portrait categories of the World Press Photo Awards.

Dan Wood

Image source, Dan Wood

Suicide Machine depicts Dan Wood's hometown. He writes: "The main aim of the project is to rediscover Bridgend and find out if it is as generic, oppressive and depressing as I'm starting to believe. What does the future hold for Bridgend; a town that's slowly being constricted by supermarkets and out of town developments? Does happiness exist here? Why has there been an exodus of most of my friends? And what kind of town will my daughter ultimately grow up in?"

Christoph Soeder

Image source, Christoph Soeder

Clear Cut by Christoph Soeder explores customers at a barber shop in Newport. In 2013 his book Clear-Cut was shortlisted for the Unseen Dummy Award and exhibited at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam.

James Morris

Image source, James Morris

A Landscape of Wales by James Morris looks at both rural and urban locations. He said: "I have travelled and photographed all over the world but always as a visitor. In this work I wanted to look at this place that my people are from, this place that held a semi-romanticised, semi-mythological place in my imagination."

Gawain Barnard

Image source, Gawain Barnard

Boredom to Burn by Gawain Barnard depicts objects set against burnt landscapes. In his introduction to the piece he writes: "Boredom makes us do it, that and the chase. The sun whitens the grass until it's ripe to burn and then we light it, watch and wait.

"The flames take the land and then they come and we run. Us in our shorts them in their gear, too clumsy to run but fast because they're men and we're laughing and falling, stumbling and rolling from the burn, safe if not caught, too young to worry about the dead birds, broken land and black landscape."

Brian David Stevens

Image source, Brian David Stevens

Brian David Stevens said of the work, which depicts the view out to sea from a number of locations along the Welsh coast: "The work is presented as diptychs, a hangover from childhood when I would stare at landscapes first through the left eye and then through the right, delighted by the differences in the two views",

Christina Williams

Image source, Christina Williams

Byland by Christina Williams depicts St David's, in Pembrokeshire. She said: "It is Britain's smallest city and lies at the most western point in mainland Wales. St David's is steeped with historical, religious and topographical elements that have over time altered its identity and shaped a very specific visual representation."

Chloe Dewe Mathews

Image source, Chloe Dewe Mathews

Chloe Dewe Mathews's Hasidic Holiday series looks at British orthodox Jews who have been holidaying in the Welsh seaside resort of Aberystwyth for more than 20 years. "Each family rents a small house in the empty student accommodation on the hill and a large yellow and white striped tent is erected on the campus as a temporary synagogue," she said.

Gareth Phillips

Image source, Gareth Phillips

Gareth Phillips's work explores a Welsh word, Hiraeth, one that has no direct English translation. A BBC Wales Arts page from 2003 might help give a sense of the word.

Lorna Evans

Image source, Lorna Evans

Of the Night by Lorna Evans began when she went out with a group who were lamping, hunting animals using spotlights, in search of rabbits. She said: "However, this sport didn't hold my interest photographically. I became much more interested in how the darkness transformed the landscape around me into something alien. A sinister scene filled with strange creatures looking on. The natural world is no longer a place that we are familiar with."

Paul Cabuts

Image source, Paul Cabuts

Paul Cabuts is the academic subject leader for photography for the University of Wales. His project Poles explores their place in the landscape and their importance in the ever increasing amount of private digital traffic the wires they support carry.

Jack Latham

Image source, Jack Latham

The Last House on the Hill by Jack Latham is about loss, both personal and of community. He writes: "When someone departs, places and experiences go with them that exist solely as memories. A whole community might expire when its fragile image disappears in the mind of its final beholder. An idea of the valleys as they once were will cease to be, when the last witness is no more. What else will be lost in that twofold death?

"As places change beyond recognition, a direct link to what was, lives on in those that were. Perhaps without them we need revisit, to make new images and try to restore the connection before it is lost completely."

James O Jenkins

Image source, James O Jenkins

United Kingdom by James O Jenkins records the Eisteddfod festival held in August each year. Held over eight days, it is the largest competitive festival of music and poetry in Europe.

He writes: "Central to the Eisteddfod are the Gorsedd ceremonies - the Gorsedd is a society of poets, writers, musicians, artists and individuals who have all made notable contributions to Wales. Three Gorsedd ceremonies are held during the festival: The Crowning of the Bard (best free verse); the Awarding of the Prose Medal (for the winner of the prose competition); and the Chairing of the Bard (best strict metre poem)."