Roads go ever ever on, Over rock and under tree.
By caves where never sun as shone, By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown, And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone, And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on, Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone, Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen, And horror in the halls of stone.
Look at last on meadows green, And trees and hills they long have known.
Bilbo’s Song (P.269, The Hobbit, J.R.R.Tolkien, Harper Collins, 1996)
Someone once said to me not too long ago, that I was more interested in the journey than the destination. my reasons for starting the MA in photography would seem to indicate that this statement is true. The journey, has been a long one and by far the hardest part of this journey has been the blogging. however this journey has been worthwhile and although it is now coming to an end with the completion of the FMP section of the course, it has been extremely worthwhile. I started this course wanting to know more about photography then I had encountered during the many years I have been a member of my local Camera Club, I wanted to learn how to read a photograph and understand the meaning that I sometimes thought existed within the frame. I have encountered many photographers most of whom I had either not heard of or would never have considered studying outside the realms of academia. I have also encountered the works of many theoreticians or photographic philosophers, something I would probably never have considered looking at in any great detail, had I not undertaken this course. over the course of the next few blog entries I want to study this journey further, I want to take a look at some of the work of those photographers who have influenced my path to the fmp and perhaps look at the nature of that influence.
The poem at the start of this blog entry, commonly known as Bilbo’s song, maps out a journey from a start to a clear finish, it maps out a road that is followed from a definite beginning to an end throughout many seasons and adventures. Although the M.A. ‘journey’ is now drawing to a close my photographic journey will continue onwards, perhaps taking a different route to that which I had originally intended. My aim has never been to become a professional photographer or to seek any sort of a career in photography itself, it was and remains about the need to know, the need to discover and the desire to understand.
My chosen FMP subject has been to study the concepts of ‘Hireath’ and ‘Cynefin’.
Hiraeth and Cynefin (Hireath a Chynefin in Welsh) embody the concept or meanings associated with the ideas of longing and belonging, they are both words taken from the Welsh language but have no literal translation into English. Hireath has a broader meaning than might be implied by a single word, it contains the notion of a deep inner longing, far more intense than simple nostalgia or homesickness, for a place or time that may or may not ever have existed. Cynefin on the other hand is very firmly embedded in the notion of belonging. Cynefin, therefore has a more literal translation than Hiraeth – literally ‘the place where an organism feels that it ought to or should belong’, where it is both at home and yet also where it should be, perhaps even where it is most comfortable. Both Hiraeth and Cynefin may not be associated with any particular place, location or time yet neither are they of a nostalgic form. they are not a longing for the past or for any possible future but are something that exists solely within an individual, yet will have different meanings for each individual, no two people or cultures will interpret either Hiraeth or Cynefin to have the same meaning.
I have chosen to look at Hiraeth and Cynefin through photographing the village in which I grew up but left over 30 years ago, this is the village of Merthyr Vale. Merthyr Vale is an old mining community in the Taff Valley some 5 miles south of Merthyr Tydfil and 25 miles north of Cardiff. It is situated on the opposite side of the valley to the village of Aberfan. Although I was born in Aberfan I did not want to do a photographic study of the villagefor a variety of reasons. Many photographers have visited Aberfan with mixed results, probably the exce
ption to this is the American photographer I.C. Rappoport (more commonly known as ‘Chuck’ Rapoport) whose work “Aberfan, The Days After” will form another post in this blog.
Most photographers reasons for visiting are usually associated with memories of the Aberfan disaster of 1966 and the need they have, or their perceived need to visit the site of the disaster and the graves of the children who died. For me, Aberfan is a very difficult place to photograph, not all the photographers who visited in 1966 treated the residents with the respect that they deserved, some even sought to exploit the suffering of the residents by demanding the posing of surviving children or shocked onlookers in order to obtain a ‘better’ photograph! Because of this photographers, are not always welcome in the village, or are treated with suspicion even up to the present day. Understanding how the residents feel about being photographed makes it incredibly difficult to take their portraits or to include them in any photographic images that may be made. Additionally, Merthyr Vale has had very little photographic work made within it and I have felt that the making of such a work has been long overdue. This FMP project therefore, is aimed, in some small way at rectifying that situation while examining my own relation to the place during the visits made. It is thus, a highly personal work coloured by my own perceptions and prejudices.
The end result of this project will be to produce a series of images which can be exhibited, hopefully within Merthyr Vale itself but also within the town of Carmarthen where I now reside.