Last year marked the centenary of the study of photography at Newport. Wales Arts Review is proud to acknowledge the past, present and future of photography produced by students of the university by publishing a landmark series of photographs taken during the 1980s as part of a highly successful documentary photography project called The Newport Survey.
Having grown up during the the ’80s in Newport, the editorial team of Wales Arts Review found these richly atmospheric photographs to be a moving and evocative record of the city and its people. We publish them here in celebration of the people of Newport and the excellent work of the photography programmes delivered at Newport across the decades.
From 1979, the then Newport School of Art and Design developed The Newport Survey – undertaken by students and directed by staff – which was supported by a number of organisations in the area. The introduction to the first project publication stated:
As Britain enters the 1980s we also enter a period of economic recession… south Wales and Newport in particular has, like every other industrial region, been greatly affected by these forces. Contraction in the Coal and Steel industries is producing traumatic changes in the economy of the region… Through photographs we hope to construct a contemporary visual history of Newport.
Parallels could be drawn between the conditions documented by the New Deal photographers (who chronicled the American Depression of the 1930s) and those in recession hit Newport, although the photographs featured in the 2012 Newport Survey exhibition feature a cheerfully defiant community rather than one crushed by utter economic devastation.
The 2012 Newport Survey retrospective celebrated the deep and abiding ties that existed, and continue to exist, between photography and Newport. The warm responses of Newport’s people to the recent exhibition was testimony to the continuing capacity of photography to touch the lives of individuals, families and their communities, and in turn for those communities to continually welcome the curious eye of the university’s photography students.
1. Corpus Christi Celebration Cardiff Arms Park. About 30 people from St Michael’s Church in Newport attended. June 9th 1985. Photographer Ana-Cecilia Gonzales-Vigil.
2. New Testament Church of God, Commercial Road, Pillgwenlly, Newport. Sister Claudette Bailey aged 18, pictured at centre.19 Oct 1985. Photographer Jeffrey Morgan.
3. Baneswell Festival, Royal Wedding (Charles + Diana) children’s party. Photographer Chris Carpenter. 1981.
4. Newport Talent Show. Photographer Chris Carpenter. 1981.
5. Baneswell Festival. Baby Show. Photographer Chris Carpenter. 1981.
6. The Milner Family of Victoria Crescent Newport. Chris and David Milner, Tracey, Rachel, Wenda, Wayne, Dean and Tonic the dog. Chris is a member of the Baneswell Festival committee and works at Newport County Football Club and David is a bricklayer. Photographer Chris Carpenter. 1981.
7. Children’s Party for the wedding of Charles and Diana. 1981. Photographer Chris Carpenter.
8. Sister St Joseph with some of the chess club from St David Lewis RC School in Bettws. Photographer Joan Russell. 1985.
9. Customers dancing at Alexandros Greek Restaurant on Clarence Place at Christmas time 1984. Photographer Joan Russell.
10. John Liscombe Ltd, 73 Lower Dock Street. The girls in the Press Shop (left to right) Foustina Luongo, Yolonder Rakic, Thelma Brosnan, Vincenza Antonelli, Dora Gargaro and Jean Merchant. Photographer Michelle J Smith.
11. Victoria Cresent. Wayne Milner, Joanne Meradith, Racheal Milner, Lisa Thomas and Tracy Milner (order left to right) play ‘House’ together. The name of the boy jumping is Robert Power and the Milners are the children of Chris Milner an active member of the Baneswell Festival committee. Photographer Pam Gill. 1981.
12. Shop window at Allan’a on the corner of Blewitt St and St Mary’s street in Baneswell. Photographer Pam Gill. 1981.
13. The staff of ‘Trees Unlimited’ (artificial Christmas tree manufacturer). Photographer Paul Reas. 1983.
14. Jeff puts the final touches to Punk Robert’s hair before going out. Photographer Philip Dixon.1981.
15. Focal Dev Services, agents for Manpower Services. They offer training schemes for 16/17 year olds in retail distribution. Photographer Susan Hackett. 1984.
16. Cleaners at the Queen’s Hotel, Newport. Photographer Susan Hackett. 1984.
17. Gwyneth Davies who has worked for Compton and Webb Uniforms for 21 years. She is seen here with a Beafeater uniform. Photographer Susan Hackett. 1984.
18. Helen Chambers and Claire Burgess. They were both born at St Joseph’s Nursing Home, both went to Glasllwch Primary school and have been best friends ever since. From 1977 to 1983 they both lived on Weston Ave. They went to guides together,youth club and now both go to the Dolman Theatre ‘Youth Theatre’. They are both in the fourth year of Duffryn Comp. They are age 14.
The extensive portfolio of photography programmes delivered at Newport, which is now part of the University of South Wales, includes; BA (Hons) Documentary Photography, BA (Hons) Photographic Art and BA (Hons) Photography for Fashion and Advertising at undergraduate level, and MFA Contemporary Photographic Practice and MA/MFA Documentary Photography at postgraduate level.
Newport’s photography students have received some of the most prestigious awards in photography, and have gone on to work for some of the world’s most renowned newspapers and magazines.
Acclaimed Newport graduate, Anastasia Taylor Lind, was recently confirmed as a full member of the exclusive Photographers agency VII Network, and has just had a photo-essay on China published in National Geographic magazine. Her latest project, The National Womb tells the story of the fledgling republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Southern Caucasus, and was featured both in the Journal of Photography and The New York Times.
Leo Maguire, ex Documentary Photography BA student, was recently shortlisted as one of the Best Newcomers for the Grierson Documentary awards. His film Gypsy Blood was commissioned and shown recently on Channel 4. Another recent graduate, Will Hartley, has just been shortlisted for the Magnum Photographers ‘Ideas Tap’ Award.
Josephine Sowden, who graduated in 2012, was awarded a cash prize of £5000 for her performative video, The Lilies of the Field; and Fergus Thomas, who studied for a Diploma at the University’s Caerleon campus, produced a series of images on the recent measles epidemic in South Wales that was published in The Wall Street Journal.
The new University of South Wales is going through a period of change but there are currently no plans for future relocation of the photography programmes, which will remain based at Caerleon Campus. A new School of Art and Design will be established, with a portfolio of courses across all the university’s campuses, and it will seek out collaborations with organisations in and around Newport to enhance the learning opportunities and experiences of its students, and to help develop new creative opportunities for the City of Newport and its people.
Illustration by Dean Lewis