An unprecedented collection of photographic portraits of notable characters within the arts community in Wales, Pieces of a Jigsaw is based on Bernard Mitchell’s ongoing Welsh Arts Archive project. The project began in 1966 with a series of portraits of the Swansea friends of Dylan Thomas, including the artists Ceri Richards and Alfred Janes, the poet Vernon Watkins, and the composer Daniel Jones. The collection kept growing and now features many leading artists and writers who have significantly contributed to Welsh culture in the late twentieth century, including Will Roberts, Josef Herman, Max Boyce, Jan Morris, Ernest Zobole, Emyr Humphreys and Gwyneth Lewis.
Bernard Mitchell was born in Morriston, Swansea, in 1947. His interest in photography began at junior school with a cardboard pinhole camera. The present of a Kodak 127 and various cameras throughout school helped him develop his knowledge and interest in the fundamentals of photography. After leaving school, he studied photography at the Berkshire college of art Reading Before joining Thomson Regional Newspapers as an indentured photojournalist. Following a long career in newspapers, Bernard returned to Swansea in 2003 to study for a Masters degree in photography at Swansea Metropolitan University. In 2016 Bernard gifted his archive of photographs of artists and writers of Wales to the Richard Burton Archive at Swansea University.
Video: Bernard Mitchell’s – Pieces of a Jigsaw. Made by Film Students at the University of Solent
Introduced by Christine Kinsey, Bernard Mitchell gave a talk about his new book Pieces of a Jigsaw, published by Parthian Books at the Osi Gallery, Llansteffan on Friday 8th June 2018. The exhibition will be available throughout the festival and includes images of Osi Rhys Osmond, R.S.Thomas, John Petts, Kusha Petts, Raymond Garlick, Mererid Hopwood, Christine Kinsey, Peter Jones and Sylvia Griffiths-Jones.
I visited Richard in his studio in February 2018 tucked away in a refurbished ex-nightclub, behind a bright yellow front door. Rich was working hard on his forthcoming exhibition ‘Come get it while its cold’ which exhibited from February to April 2018. The beautifully colourful images have a dark undertone, concerned with the idea of humanity’s disconnection from and exploitation of the ecosystem, specifically with the current massive and increasing depletion of insect populations in Europe.
A visit to a Rhymney Valley terrace, a small nook of a Welsh mining village, we meet Tracey Moberly, multidisciplinary artist. Given Ms Moberly’s latest intended artistic excursion into “power”, with Heaven 17’s Martin Ware and artist Sarah Hopkins, and her passion of heritage, we make our way to the obvious place for a photoshoot – the former colliery at Penallta.
The colliery near Hengoed is formerly South Wales’ deepest coalfield; its Grade 2 buildings grand and surprisingly ornate, despite their state of dereliction. The headgear of the two shafts are proposed to be part of a pioneering housing development scheme. The site is breath-taking. You can almost inhale the past.
Tracey is warm and humble; ballsy and mischievous. These are traits that certainly come through in her work. She is in tune with the past, whilst embracing the future. She is an activist, a lecturer and artist. She has been selected as artist is residence for an upcoming expedition to the Arctic Pole.
Here for a change an extract from the early archive, Morriston in the early 1960’s. You might call it street photography. Give a child a camera and adults will ignore you, he probably does not know what he is doing or has no film in the camera, other young people do take an interest. From an early age I was fascinated by the interaction of people in groups. I started in Morriston where I was born and brought up.
Rough sleepers, London 1973, or as I call it the dwarf and the giant. It was a cold winters night, and I am out on the St Mungo’s Trust soup run. These rough sleepers stood with their backs to the hot air ducts at the rear of a hotel near Regents Street. Is this the dwarf who worked for the Kray twins? Does anybody know?
Graham Hill, a long ride to recovery at the Royal Stanmore Hospital January 1970 after breaking his legs in the 1969 American Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. During this time I visited Graham at his home near Elstree and photographed his young son Damon driving his model racing car around the garden. Sadly he died in a plane crash in 1975 returning home from France.
Looking back to the 1970’s, unlike today’s riots of looting and arson, it was a period of politically motivated demonstrations for a well defined cause. Anti-apartheid. Anti-Vietnam War, Ban the bomb, animal rights, and don’t forget the Irish problem. Violence was often the end result of what should have been a peaceful protest. I seemed to be always there; perhaps the picture desk was trying to give me a message? In February 1970, a mass of anti –apartheid protesters had managed to occupy the end stand at what was to become the last Springbok game in London at the time. Massed ranks of uniformed police tipped protesters trying to get onto the pitch back into the crowd, where plain clothed police made the situation worse, particularly for myself.
An original Chelsea smile from a fan in 1970. At the time of the Watford v Chelsea match at Vicarage Road, there was great media interest. Four photographers were sent to cover the match from the Evening Echo. One for each goal, one on the halfway line and myself as the junior member of the team, outside the ground to cover what the crowds got up to in Watford town centre after the match, which I never saw. Today with Swansea City FC in the Premier league, I am told that lip tattoos are back in fashion.
Sir Cliff , or as he was known then Harry Webb , was born in India in 1940.The family moved to England where he was brought up in Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. They were a Christian family, with both his mother and father attending church regularly. However, it wasn’t until after his father’s death that he began to search for a deeper meaning to life. By 1966 he had become a converted Christian and was invited to appear at the Billy Graham Rally at Earl’s Court and declare his belief in the Christian faith. This brave public statement at the height of his singing career created great interest in the media. My photograph was taken in 1971 at a meeting held at an evangelical church near Watford in Hertfordshire. Waiting to speak he sits on the rostrum looking through the out of focus lectern.
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.