Max Boyce in concert at the Pavilion Theatre, Hemel Hempstead

Max Boyce in concert at the Pavilion Theatre, Hemel Hempstead

After leaving the Berkshire College of Art, Reading, I joined Thomson Regional Newspapers on the Watford Evening Echo at Hemel Hempstead in 1967 first as a darkroom assistant and then as an indentured photographer.

I met Max Boyce for the first time in August 1975, a rare working visit to Wales as a freelance taking photographs for the Saturday Arts page of the Guardian. I photographed him outside the modest terraced house where he lived in Glyn Neath. At the time he had completed the memorable ‘ Live at Treorchy’ album. Max was packing out the halls and clubs across South Wales, and as he would say, in his own words, ‘I was there ‘ when he filled the Albert Hall in London. Coaches in lines from the Valleys confirmed his meteoric rise ,he was the bard of the South Wales miners. Nothing can replace the magic when Wales are beating England at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and the Welsh crowd start singing his iconic song ‘Hymns and Arias’. He performs with joy and humour, enough to warm the cockles of any proud Welshman’s heart.

Max is my first entry in a series of pictures taken from the late 1960’s through the 1970’s while I worked for the Evening Echo, under the guidance of both Haydn Jones and Mike Dellow as chief photographers. I was given the privilege to create with a freedom not seen on regional newspapers. We covered no dramatic wars but concentrated on the more difficult day to day happening of ordinary life. From the start of my photographic career I have always had a fascination with people and their interrelations. During this time however I developed a style which I have come to call ironic humour.

In 1978, I moved from Hemel Hempstead, and joined the North Wales Newspaper Company, based in Oswestry Shropshire as Chief Photographer on the Border Counties Advertizer. After some time I unpacked the last tea chest, which was full of prints from my days in Hemel Hempstead. To my regret today, I destroyed what I then considered not worthy of keeping on a bonfire. However not all were destroyed and the survivors now reside in the collection of The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth for safe keeping. The National Library of Wales (www.llgc.org.uk) has collected photographs both historic and modern since their founding in 1911. They now hold one of the finest collections in the country. In 2007 I was asked to speak at the annual Lens conference at the Library entitled People and Portraits .Lens is an opportunity for professional and amateur photographers, archivists and collectors historians and journalists to discuss photography in Wales and to learn more about the wealth of Welsh documentary photography held at the National Library of Wales through its extensive and unique collection. They chose this picture of Max Boyce in concert for their poster and leaflet. So this is the first of many from the 1970’s that I am going to talk about. I hope you enjoy them. Do pass this on and tell your friends.

Best wishes

Bernard Mitchell.

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