Selected texts from presentations, papers and articles produced by Paul Cabuts.

Here and Now

Article published in Offline magazine, Autumn 2018
“Perhaps it's time I got out more". This is the last line from Elvis Died in my Bedroom, my short film made for the BBC Capture Wales project under the tutelage of the wonderful Daniel Meadows – the line seems more appropriate now than ever. The film was a lament of growing up in front of a screen.

There has never been a time like now for photography, particularly here in Wales. I see photography and photographs everywhere – most often my viewing is on computers and mobile devices rather than in places with people. Yet it seems that our galleries are showing more photography than ever – a national institution has a new dedicated photography gallery; the national agency for contemporary photography is establishing a new facility in the centre of the capital. Photographs can often be seen at the many galleries around Wales including in Wrexham, Llanrwst, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Newtown, Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Swansea, Abertillery, Pontypool, Newport, Rhondda plus many more. ...more

Church Crawling: John Piper, Photography and Wales

A paper presented at the MONC Word and Image conference at National Library of Wales - September 2017
This paper focuses on the photographs taken in Wales by the artist John Piper (1903-1992). The title ‘Church Crawling’ should more accurately read ‘Chapel Crawling’, as the works discussed here largely reflect Piper’s fascination with this form of religious architecture. Attention is paid to the Shell Guide publication South-West Wales (first published in 1963; republished in 1976) and the interplay between its text and photographs ...more

The Lure of the Archive

Introduction to The Lure of the Archive symposium at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea - March 2017

When considering the relationship between photography and Wales it is often the case that industry is at the heart of it. Today we celebrate creative women. As ‘The Lure of the Archive’ will reveal, Mary Dillwyn was one of the earliest pioneers in photography. For Mary’s family it was the clay feeding its own Cambrian Pottery that helped generate the wealth that allowed them to pursue their interests in science, botany and astronomy. ...more

Photography and Newport College of Art

A paper presented as part of On the Edge, Eisteddfod Fringe, Abergavenny - August 2016
It would be an almost impossible task to trace the myriad influences that Newport College of Art has had on the world of photography and beyond. There are too many instances of influential individuals and creative innovation to be able to track and reference them all. I will therefore look at the question of influence from a largely personal perspective as someone who both studied and worked there, and as someone interested in photography’s relationship to Wales. ...more

The Valleys Project Archive

A paper presented at the Art Libraries Society conference at Cardiff Metropolitan University - July 2015
This paper describes The Valleys Project, a photographic survey that was conceived as an archive project, which initially set out to document the people and places within the south Wales Valleys during the 1980s. The paper considers the context for the Project, the photography undertaken within it, and the nature of the resultant archive.

The Valleys of south Wales had been one of the most photographed areas in the world. Images of the region by important figures in photography such as Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith and Robert Frank have either been published or exhibited in some of the most prestigious magazines and museums. Robert Frank’s photographs taken in Caerau near Maesteg in 1953, for example, formed part of a touring exhibition of his shown at Tate Modern early in 2005. This exhibition offers an example of how such images can re-emerge in today’s contemporary photographic contexts. ...more

Gone with the Wind: The Poles of Stumble Head

Article published in Planet, Winter 2014, Issue 216
First published in Ysgrifau in 1928, Sir T.H. Parry Williams’ essay ‘Telegraph Poles’ gave a rich and textured celebration of the former trees that for him had ‘reached the perfect state, which is death, and have commenced a new, static life, which is some kind of death enlivened’. He acknowledged them as being ‘modern in the extreme’, yet holding ‘the memory of a monastic Middle Age melancholy in their brutal stance’. ...more

Reframed: Advertising Hoardings and the Magic System

A paper written in preparation for the 'In Conversation' with the artist Dawn Woolley at the launch of her Consumer project at Ffotogallery - November 2014.
Advertising hoardings (billboards) are ubiquitous functional structures and as such are often overlooked. Yet, they assume key positions in our public spaces most often carrying ever-changing messages that shape our existence. There are two examples from the history of photography that provide a vivid insight into the complex relationship between advertising, society and photography’s capacity to transform what it describes. Not least, the photographs illustrate how advertising hoardings form part of a mechanism of control – one that the Welsh academic, novelist and critic Raymond Williams called the Magic System. ...more

Towards a Welsh Photography

A paper presented at the Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Nations, University of South Wales, Cardiff - March 2014.
The title of this paper makes reference to 'Towards a Welsh Photography’, an article written by Alistair Crawford in 1984. Whilst the very notion of a 'Welsh Photography’ would now be a deeply contested one, the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s arguably witnessed the emergence of a form of photography in Wales that reflected the cultural and political dynamics of both 'rural/Welsh language Wales’ and 'industrial/English language Wales’. It is arguably problematic to frame the activity in a reductive binary opposition but it provides a starting point for mapping the foundation of the photographic culture that would develop in Wales during the following decades. ...more

In Our Own Image?

In Our Own Image? - Foreword - Spring, 2014
I’m drinking coffee from my mug and looking out at the view of Mynydd Eglwysilan framed by the living room window at home. The mug, bought at the gift shop of the National Museum Cardiff, is decorated with a black and white image; a photograph of striking miners taken one wednesday in november 1910 at Tonypandy in the Rhondda Valleys. On the bookshelves nearest the window the same image can be seen on the cover of the book In the Frame: Memory and Society 1910-2010 by Dai Smith ...more

Creative Photography and Wales

Book published by University of Wales Press, 2012
Creative Photography and Wales explores the development of practices within photography undertaken in and about the south Wales Valleys during the second half of the twentieth century. Reviews...

This volume seeks to put both the photography of Wales and Welsh Photography on the map. Cabuts' work is a seminal one.
Amanda Hopkinson - New Welsh Review

a thoroughly researched and intelligent book that, happily, never loses its readability. Insightful and informative it is, I believe, an important critical contribution to the visual culture of Wales.
Anthony Brockway - Babylon Wales ...more

Photography's Voice

Article in Bevan Foundation Review, Winter 2012
Growing up in the Rhondda, and coming from a family that included keen amateur photographers, it was not surprising that I should eventually become deeply interested in the ways in which photography could engage with notions of history, memory and place. ...more

A Turning Tide: The Sea, Photography and Wales

Exhibition text for A Turning Tide - Aled Rhys Hughes - April 2011.
Some of the earliest photographs taken in Wales were of the sea. Whilst mastering the brand new technology of photography in the nineteenth century, John Dillwyn Llewellyn set about photographing ships at Swansea’s docks at a time when the sea was a ‘super-highway’ for transport, trade and knowledge. In 1855 Llewellyn was awarded a silver medal of honour at the Exposition Universelle Paris for four photographs taken on the theme of motion, including a photograph that captured incoming waves at Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsular. ...more


Article featured in Blown Magazine, Autumn 2010
I hate the photograph of three miners – or at least I used to. I guess this was because growing up in the Rhondda in the 1970s it was rare to see grimy miners on the street, particularly on streets as gloomy as those in the photograph. I first saw the photograph in my uncle’s collection of photo-books in a book called The Art of Photography. I used to get taken to visit my aunt and uncle on some Sundays as a treat – they lived in Barry near the island. What I didn’t realise until decades later was that we had to drive along one of the streets in the photograph to get there. ...more

Trees of the Third War: Forests, Photography and Wales

A paper presented at Emerging Landscapes, a conference organized by the University of Westminster, London. June 2010.
This paper considers the relationship between forests, photography and Wales. In doing so it explores the possibility that fir trees and forests might provide Wales with the appropriate monuments and landscapes to symbolize the nation in the twenty-first century. The cultural dynamics enabling national symbols to emerge in Wales is explored. Consideration is given to whether such cultural processes can be sustained when notions of identity are increasingly fluid. Consideration is also given to the role of photography in these processes. ...more

The Silent Village

An exhibition review published in Planet, Spring 2010, Issue 198.
Ffotogallery’s recent exhibition and publication The Silent Village presented a fascinating exploration of atrocity, memory and place. Curated by Russell Roberts of the University of Wales, Newport, The Silent Village not only offered an opportunity to revisit the work of filmmaker Humphrey Jennings, but also provided a rich platform for contemporary responses from artists Peter Finnemore and Paulo Ventura, and writer Rachel Trezise. ...more

Three Boys and a Pigeon

Article published in Planet, Autumn 2009, Issue 196
Photography has played a role in Wales since its invention in the 1830s when its key figure William Henry Fox Talbot, along with his family and friends, made some of the earliest ever photographs in and around Swansea and Margam. This summer, three concurrent exhibitions, two at National Museum Cardiff and one at Ffotogallery, offered an opportunity for Paul Cabuts to reflect on the development and growth of the medium over the last forty years. ...more

Perspectives on the Timeless and the Contemporary

A presentation at the Wales Millennium Centre with Aled Rhys Hughes, November 2009.
It is better to start by looking at other people’s photographs when talking about my own. This is a photograph of the Welsh actor Stanley Baker ‘At the Brynffynon Inn – Llanwonno – on the occasion of filming ‘Zulu’’. Taken by an un-credited photographer, this ‘trophy’ image was published in Pontypridd the Old Urban Wards, one of the many books that became increasingly available in the 1980s and 1990s exploring local areas through old photographs. ...more

Outlook: Contemporary Photographs and Collective Memories.

A paper presented at Photography, Archive & Memory, a symposium organized by Roehampton University, London.
If one were asked to conjure up a mental image of the South Wales Valleys it would almost certainly feature some of the characteristics contained within the photograph of three miners taken by the great ‘humanist’ photographer Eugene Smith in 1950. This image became a key element of my larger research study in which I considered the development of the photographic arts relating to the Valleys. ...more

Photography and the South Wales Valleys: A PhD Study

A paper presented at the Welsh Institute for Research in Art & Design's 1st National Symposium for Emerging Art & Design Practitioners.
As a photographic practitioner I undertook a PhD study that would involve literature reviews, examinations of photographic collections and archives, collaborations with other researchers and practitioners, and the production of new photographic works. It is the case that in establishing the questions to be addressed in the study, the limited existing scholarship in the field of photography’s relationship to the South Wales Valleys became a key factor structuring the investigation. ...more

Wales - Three Views from the 1950s; Photographs from American, European and Welsh Perspectives

A paper presented at the National Library of Wales' 4th Annual Festival of Documentary Photography in Wales
In 1839 the announcement of photography coincided with the opening of the Treherbert to Cardiff railway line to service the rapidly expanding coal industry in the Rhondda. By the 1850’s the distribution of coal extended to the building of a railway line between the Valleys of south Wales and the industrial Midlands. This significant project required a viaduct that crossed the valley at Crumlin. ...more

From Within

Catalogue text published to coincide with the Zobole Cabuts exhibition 2006
The tenet driving me to make my work has been the slippage between my experience of growing up in the Rhondda in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and the way it has been represented by various media including writing, film and photography. The work I undertake is, in part, produced to reveal the structures underpinning the media surfaces that have become the prevailing windows on this particular world. ...more

The Valleys Project; Archive Index

Article published in Ffotocopy, Winter 2005
The Valleys of South Wales has been one of the most photographed areas in the world. Images of the region by important figures in photography such as Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith and Robert Frank have either been published or exhibited in many of the most prestigious magazines and museums. Robert Frank’s photographs taken in Caerau near Maesteg in 1953 formed part of his touring exhibition shown at Tate Modern early in 2005. This exhibition offers an example of how such images can re-emerge in today’s contemporary photographic contexts. ...more


Article published in Source Magazine - Summer 2003 Issue 35
The perception of the south Wales Valleys is formed, in part, by the photography that was undertaken there in the first half of the twentieth Century. The most influential photographs were those published in the mass media magazines of the day and those, which have since been legitimised through being collected, re-published and exhibited by academics and intellectuals working within the boundaries of art theory and criticism. ...more

Photography Centre for Wales

Article published in Planet, Winter 2001, Issue 150
Snapshots, family photos, photographs in newspapers and magazines and on advertising hoardings form a powerful visual backdrop to our lives. Indeed, it is photography's hybrid character that makes it so tantalisingly interesting and allows it to remain one of the most accessible and popular art forms. Most of us will have, at some time, taken photographs to record happy or memorable events. ...more