A Casual Archaeology

Article published in New Welsh Reader #129, Spring 2022

A Casual Archaeology traces how the renaissance of the photographer’s book in Wales documents neglected corners of our society. Not least, I suggest that photography in Wales has only recently found its own distinct and authentic voice and that developments in publishing ‘photobooks’ are providing new opportunities for the visual expression of a contemporary post-industrial Welsh experience by those living and working in the nation.

I have focused on two recent books - Dan Wood’s Black was the River You See and Huw Alden Davies’s Scaffold to the Moon - I am grateful to both Dan and Huw for readily discussing their books with me. As I point out, I’m not reviewing their work as such, but marking a turning point for photobooks in Wales...

It is not the intention here to review these books nor judge their relative merits, rather, it is to show how they provide a platform for each of the photographers to express something meaningful about their own lives here. We see in each a different approach to storytelling that has at one and the same time elements of autobiography whilst reflecting much of a contemporary Welsh experience. Dan Wood and Huw Alden Davies have rejected the all too easy trope in photography of extending into the present a defining condition of the industrial experience; a fight fought and lost, again and again, with its resultant and pervasive sense of defeat.

I, like many others, look forward to more photographer’s books that will provide valuable insights into the rich and diverse aspects of contemporary life in Wales.

Available at New Welsh Reader here >0<