Articles by Huw David Jones
A new photography festival has been taking place across Cardiff this May. Called Diffusion, it celebrates ‘photography and the photographic image, in all its forms’, though the emphasis seems to be on the medium’s social relevance – its ability to ‘record contemporary life as lived’, as the catalogue puts it.
I’ve only managed to catch few shows – the festival is spread out across 13 venues – but all have been very impressive.
Valleys Re-presented at the Tramshed in Grangetown was particularly moving. It features a selection from the Valleys Project, a photographic survey of the south Wales coalfield commissioned by Ffotogallery in the 1980s, alongside other documentary images of the region, and includes work by David Bailey, Philip Jones Griffiths, David Hurn, Roger Tiley and Paul Cabuts.
Many record aspects of manufacturing and industry, or else reflect on the social problems which have emerged with deindustrialisation, though for me the highlight was Jeremy Deller’s tender film about Welsh coal-miner-turned-wrestler Adrian Street. Seeing this exhibition on temporary chipboard panels in a drafty, disused factory gives the work an added layer of poignancy.
Also shown at the Tramshed is Structures of Feeling – a collection of work by the Welsh photojournalist Geoff Charles. Between the 1930s and 1980s, Charles worked for a variety of Welsh newspapers and magazines, documenting daily life and the tensions in post-war Wales between tradition and modernity.
The curators Peter Finnemore and Russell Roberts have removed Charles’ photographs from their original context and reclassified them thematically, to create ‘new frames of reference’. Unlike the Valleys exhibition, I would have preferred to have studied these images in a more conventional gallery setting (many of the images are placed on pillars too high to see clearly). Nevertheless, it provides a welcome opportunity to view some extraordinary images of Welsh life.
Elsewhere, I managed to catch Barnraising and Bunkers at g39 gallery in Cathays. This was a bit on the pretentious side (it comes with one of those lengthy, theory-ladden artist statements), though does include some interesting work. I liked the way many of the photographers explored how people resist or challenge the planned urban environment, as illustrated in Dan Griffith’s film of a skateboard ride through the city or Abigail Reynolds’ photographs of well-worn pathways which appear across patches of grass when people decide to take their own shortcuts through town.
The Diffusion festival runs in venues across Cardiff and Penarth till May 31, 2013.