Photographing the everyday has always been a huge source of inspiration to photographers wherever they have come from in the world. From the first portraits, to people at work, of family and friends, during travel and adventure, the impulse to photograph and record life as it unfolds around us is as popular today as it has ever been.
In Newport, the very first photography class can be dated back to 1912, when it was introduced by the head of the school of art at Newport Technical Institute. The city’s photographic reputation rose to an international level when Magnum photographer David Hurn set up a 12-month Training Opportunities Scheme in 1973, turning out world famous and industry-respected photographers for years to come.
In around 1979 the Newport School of Art and Design developed a highly successful documentary photography project called ‘The Newport Survey’. The Survey, photographed by students and directed by staff, was supported by a number of organisations based in the Newport area. A ‘Newport Survey’ book containing a series of photographic essays was published every year, being launched at Newport Art Gallery, John Frost Square. The annual themes included The Family, Newport Neighbours, The River Usk, Industry, Leisure, Religion and Education with the impetus of the survey’s first project being to document family life and the ways social and economic factors shaped it. This template would go on to inspire Ffotogallery’s geographically wider documentary project The Valleys Project, which ran from 1984 through to 1990.
In 2011, The South Wales Argus newspaper ran a campaign publishing photos from the Newport Survey and calling on any readers who recognised themselves or others to come forward with their stories relating to the images captured. The many responses, with their warm and heartfelt recollections of Newport in the 1970s and 1980s, along with those of the students who had documented the people and their town, is 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 Newport Photographers.
Whilst the University of South Wales may have moved to Cardiff in 2016, photography has continued to have a strong presence in the lives of the people living in the city. With regular exhibitions, commissions, community projects and photographic societies, photography is still as widely shared as it has ever been, popping up at the cities art centres, such as Barnabas Arts House (Pillgwenlly), Cwtsh Art Centre (Stow Hill) Maindee Library (Maindee) Newport Museum and Art Gallery, The Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre as well as online.
The Newport Photomarathon aims to continue this celebration of the people and heritage of the city, through the creativity and engagement of those passionate about taking photographs.
Top image copyright: Gareth WIlley
Bottom image copyright: University of South Wales, Newport.