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
This series of six memento mori prints where made for the exhibition ‘The Great the Good and the Dead’ held at the Ceri Richards Gallery, Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea University in January 2003. Embedded in the prints are words from the Notebook poems of Dylan Thomas written, in his school exercise books at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in the Uplands, Swansea. For this I must Thank Llew Thomas.
From top left,
1/ Browns Hotel Laugharne, Dylan and Caitlin’s table.
2/ The back bedroom, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, The Uplands, Swansea.
3/ Cwmdonkin Park, looking across to Mumbles Head.
4/ The Death Mask, The Dylan Thomas Centre, Somerset Place, Swansea.
5/ 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Uplands, Swansea.
6/ Tumbling Terraces, from The Uplands to the Sea.
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.