A Fine Beginning is the title of the first publication from a new Welsh photography collective by the same name. According to the publication’s introduction, the name is taken from the first chapter of Dylan Thomas’s unfinished novel Adventures in the Skin Trade. The central character of the story leaves his parents’ home in South Wales for Paddington Station and when asked where he’s going, Samuel Bennett replies, ‘I don’t know where I’m going, I haven’t any idea in the world, that’s why I came to London’.
Collectives in photography are nothing new. They have long provided photographers with a vital form of community: Allowing for a shared perspective, providing a sounding-board for ideas, and offering an important sense of camaraderie. Things that are often missing from the busy lives of solitary photographers, and can’t always be found in the more rigid, intimidating surrounds of a larger agency. With the recent emergence of Document Scotland, another nationally founded and oriented collective, I asked Panos Profile member Abbie Trayler-Smith to talk to her fellow members about the thinking behind A Fine Beginning.
James O Jenkins (founder)
I wanted to put together a publication that showcases Welsh photography. This means photographs of/about/shot in Wales – it doesn’t mean you have to be Welsh. The Diffusion Publishing Fair in Cardiff was the perfect opportunity for a soft launch this inaugural issue.
A success for AFB would be to see people actively getting in touch wanting their work to be involved. Seeing photographers at all stages of their careers seeing the work, having their work printed in AFB would be great. And importantly, selling it so that people do see it. It would be great for AFB to be seen as a platform for arts graduates in Wales. We’d like this to be an opportunity (after looking for funding) to commission stories about Wales by new talent, etc, and further than that, who knows: Exhibitions Coverage, a residency, Sponsors.
I usually get a bit frustrated by the representation of Wales through photography, even with the wonderful explosion of contemporary photography, its popularity and a photographer’s ability to produce creative and beautiful projects, the representation of Wales in photography usually (but not always) goes back towards the well trodden and awfully boring ‘traditional’ view of Wales. The terraced houses, mountains, rugby, pits… all that bollocks! We can’t seem to get past this ‘Valleys Project’ 70s & 80s ethos of what it was like to be Welsh and it’s a terrible thing to pass onto the rest of the world, this idea of a down-trodden poor nation, still recovering from the mines. I’m hoping that AFB will encourage a rethink of Wales through photography, I don’t want it to be all happy look how wonderful we’re doing Wales, because it’s not, but it is interesting, good and bad!
I see A Fine Beginning as an attempt of giving back to a country which I feel often gets ignored in terms of photography. A lot of people (myself included) felt the need to leave Wales in order to be “closer” to where the action seems to be happening and It is a real shame that I didn’t feel that way about my home country. After Diffusion I think photography in Wales is only going to increase, it is an incredibly beautiful place and really inspiring to visit. Diffusion has arguably been the most important event within recent history within Wales to do with photography. It was clear from its reception that Photography is something people are still passionate about. I hope A Fine Beginning will fill that role and play a small part in connecting photography with Wales again.
We want to be responsive to photography in Wales and beyond. I’ve become involved because I think this is needed, there aren’t enough platforms for photographers making work in Wales to show their work in its physical form, in print. And it’s hard to keep good arts graduates in Wales, so many have quickly left because there is not enough opportunities here. In addition to showcasing existing work, I’d like to see AFB develop a supported residency programme to commission new photography in Wales and to curate accompanying exhibitions.
When James first asked me to be involved with AFB I immediately felt excited. I’d been looking at the work of Document Scotland which I found inspiring and impressive, and had already got me thinking about doing something similar for Wales. I have always been passionate about my home and to be given the opportunity to champion my motherland was one not to be missed. We’re not sure where exactly we’re going with AFB, a bit like Samuel Bennett. It’s a very organic open process at the moment, evolving on a daily basis. We only met altogether for the first time at Diffusion and yet seemed to gel straight away. With so much enthusiasm, energy and talent in the group we are now formulating big plans. The idea of being able to commission new work in Wales is particularly appealing as is the idea of further establishing Wales within the photography arena and beyond. Watch this space.
A Fine Beginning is available to buy:
To get involved or submit work please contact us via Twitter @afinebeginning
Josh Lustig, SOCIAL Editor