about Cardiff Before Cardiff
In mid 2010 I, with a couple of friends, took over an art studio- Warwick Hall. Situated in the Heath area of Cardiff, it had once been a vibrant and busy place, with artist's spaces and a recording studio. Seeing it at this point in 2010, you could be forgiven for thinking it was derelict. The artist rooms were full to the ceiling with junk, and the recording studio was a sea of cigarette butts, empty cans, and broken musical equipment. The landlord told us when we contacted him that he was weeks away from clearing the building and changing its use.
Sorting through this mountain of rubbish seemed at first an insurmountable task, but fate was about to give me a push in the right direction. In one room I found a photographic print, of two Mod revival kids, stood in front of a window. Reflected in the window was one of the old style concrete lamp posts. The photograph hit me like the classic 'bolt from the blue'. In some ways I felt I had taken it. It was very specific to me and my interests, and reminded me of a self portrait I had done in college, years before. Now clearing the rubbish also become a search for more photos. Who were the pictures of, and more importantly, who took them? It would take a couple of years, and the amazing power of the internet, to find out.
5 years later. I can't really believe I have put 5 years into this project. It's flown by. I dug out some 300 prints and several books of negatives in the end, and through those images, I began a Narnia-like adventure with the photographs as the wardrobe. Re-examining my own process, and re-exploring the familiar tropes of documentary photography, I wanted to to visit a time before colour photography became king, and monochrome photography became a supposedly redundant medium.
The background story to the photographs I found is well covered in the Cardiff before Cardiff book, available here http://www.ylolfa.com/en/dangos.php?ISBN=9781847715715. But I obviously must give mention here to the photographer who inspired me through his work, that I discovered. Keith S Robertson, who lived in Carlisle Street in Splott, was a commercial photographer, whose passion was street photography. When I found his archive, I didn't know who he was, and he thought that that archive had been destroyed. We were finally brought together by the internet, and Keith's fantastic daughter Leigh, who travelled from Dubai to introduce me to her father. Since then there has been the aforementioned book, and a large exhibition in the Wales Millennium Centre. This website is the next milestone, and is intended as a companion to the original blog that holds a lot of the work. http://cardiffbeforecardiff.tumblr.com