“Home and Away” is an exhibition of black and white photographs, first held at Pontypool Museum between 1 May to 25 July 2010.  While it has nothing to do with the Australian soap opera, it does offer glimpses into the wide range of activities carried out by people of all ages; refuge, rebellion, religion, remembrance, recreation, ritual, rites of passage, education, charity, shopping, work and play are all portrayed. 


The exhibition is divided into two distinct series.  The first series, “Home”, comprises photographs taken between 1980 and 1985 in and around Pontypool.  During this time, the photographer lived in Pontypool and coincided with his transition from adolescence to adulthood.  The series, initially inspired by the images of the pioneers of Magnum Group in the mid 20th century, was later influenced by the strong documentary photography culture emerging in Wales through the Documentary Photography course at Newport Art College and the Ffotogallery’s "Valleys Project".  Uniquely perhaps, the series was taken over a relatively long period of time from the viewpoint of an insider looking within.  Selection of the subject matter derived from an intimate knowledge of the community and was thus entirely deliberate.  Composition and shot selection, however, were necessarily spontaneous. 


The second series, “Away”, comprises photographs taken since 1985 and includes those taken when the photographer attended university and during his extensive travels.  Unlike in the “Home” series, selection of the subject matter was more opportunistic and unplanned.  However, a greater emphasis was placed on ensuring that the composition captured the full essence of an event, particularly the concept of movement, within the constraint imposed by a medium that records an image within a fraction of a second.


Each photograph attempts to strike the balance of allowing it to be judged on its own merits and as an important contributor to the series in which it belongs. Throughout, the eccentric and strange seem to have an innate and automatic ability to capture attention.  Humour and optimism pervade many of the photographs, a phenomenon perhaps of the presence of the camera itself.


In addition to offering the opportunity for aesthetic interpretation, the exhibition contributes on two other levels.  Firstly, it serves as a historical document. This attribute is particularly poignant in the “Home” series because the early 1980s was a time of great economic and social change in the South Wales Valleys with the demise of the traditional heavy industries.  The point is brought home in the photographs of Blaensychan Colliery as the colliery no longer exists.   The second level on which the exhibition operates is an anthropological one.  It allows parallels to be drawn between people’s behavioural traits across the world.  For example, the act of remembrance is celebrated with equal solemnity by the people of Pontypool, Washington and the Jewish pilgrims at the concentration camp in Auschwitz.   It also depicts differences, contrasts and ambivalence: poverty and wealth, working class and middle class, consumerism and charity, revelling and religion.  . 


Early photographs were captured using 35mm film while later ones were captured digitally.  All the photographs were printed digitally using pigment-based inks to allow over 100 years of image permanence.


Click on the themes on the left hand side of the screen to see the photographs.