South Wales Valleys, known locally as “The Valleys,” is the former industrial area of South Wales in the UK and is currently home to around 30 percent of the Welsh population. It is also the poorest region in Wales. Despite receiving a high level of financial support from the EU, The Valleys recently voted overwhelmingly in favor of Brexit. The Valleys had been a particular target of EU Regional Policy funding due to its classification as a “less developed region” where GDP was less than 75 percent of the EU average. And yet, on June 23, 2016, every single region in the Valley voted Leave. The effects of this shift could have dire consequences for the region as a whole.
The scenic countryside was first inhabited during the industrialization of the UK, and it was at this time that the characteristic workers’ houses were built. After this period, The Valleys coal mine industry boomed. When Margaret Thatcher took office as prime minister in 1979 and opened the UK to free market policies, many problems arose for the state-owned mining industry. When Thatcher announced plans to close the majority of the coal mines in 1984-85, miners across the country went on strike. Ultimately, the strike failed and all the mines were closed, resulting in unemployment rates rising to some of the highest in the UK. Drug abuse, alcoholism and educational drop-out rates rose as well. The destinies of the people of The Valleys are the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and illustrate the conflicts that arise when a society that is built on industry meets right-wing political reality. Today, The Valleys are a shadow of what they once were. There are many who live difficult lives, but there is also a strong sense of community and warmth between people who are trying to get the valleys to rise again.
The story found on vii Agency is based in Wales as you can see from the context above. I really loved the Photostory because it was spread so widely and was about different people within an area. There is a mix of portraits and landscapes , as well as a varied use of style throughout the photographs. Some images look sharp and technically perfect whereas others as more dramatic and grainy, with use of blur to convey an idea or feeling. I’m particularly impressed with this Photostory also, because of the captions that go with each image. The captions give a greater depth to the subject and add in detail we wouldn’t otherwise know.
There is an overall narrative that is ‘South Wales’ but within that there are more individual narratives as you are given part of the stories of the people within them. They are all linked by their location, yet every image is completely different from the next. Yet they all tie in well and create this sense of cohesiveness about them. The photographs themselves I really like and I find them quite beautiful to look at. They’ve been done in a way that some are a little bit abstract and quirky, but that conveys the personality of each individual. I think the square format of images works well rather than the usual rectangle and draws more of the images together. The strong lighting is emphasised in majority of the image, showing careful consideration of placement of subjects. Each subject looks comfortable with being represented in a certain way.
Representation is a key element of this photography because individuals are being presented in a certain light that some people when looking or reading the captions may judge them upon, so in this respect the photography is quite subjective as to how the photographer wants to present them and what their opinions might be, even if they don’t mean to show them. But otherwise, I think the representation is really strong in this set of images.
Captions are important to note as I will have to use these in my work so it is good to see what others have done and how they’ve gone about researching their subjects and what information they wanted to put in. The captions don’t have to be particularly long, but just enough to give the viewer and idea of the context of the situation.
The story is great and I think it works really well in terms of the narrative and there are strong images that compliment the text giving a full overview of the context of the story. The photographer has clearly taken time to consider what they wanted to convey and this has definitely shown in the final end product.
For full series: http://viiphoto.com/articles/the-valleys/