link from National Library of Wales on the opening of the exhibition
A major exhibition celebrating the work of Wrexham photographer, Geoff Charles, will be showcased at the forthcoming National Eisteddfod of Wales, to be held in the town. Curated by artist Peter Finnemore and Curator / Writer, Russell Roberts, Without Words aims to to make the richness and extent of the Geoff Charles archive at the National Library of Wales better known and understood.
For nearly 50 years, Geoff Charles (1909-2002), a press photographer from Brymbo, quietly recorded daily life in Wales - a country transformed by post-war mechanisation of farming and industry, the acquisition of land for nuclear power and reservoirs and subsequent rise of nationalist politics. He covered the mundane, the prosaic, the remarkable and the exotic that made up daily life in the countryside, villages, towns and cities. School portraits, civic ceremonies, festivals, accidents, new consumer goods and fashions, all formed the staple diet of newspaper content.
“Geoff Charles’ dedication and understanding of people and their surroundings allowed him to access situations and capture them in a unprecedented way,” said the curators. “
Peter Finnemore and Russell Roberts’ research involved trawling through the vast archive of some 120,000 prints and negatives held at the National Library of Wales
“It has been a rollercoaster journey through a fascinating social and cultural period in Welsh history that is still part of national living memory that is always guaranteed to produce differences of opinion,” they said. “Never destined to be shown in a gallery environment, Geoff Charles’ photographs, in some cases, when isolated from the words and captions that once framed them, take on another life.”
“In re-presenting a selection of his pictures as new prints, projections and interspersing his images into archival film footage, we alter how these pictures were originally seen in terms of scale and make them perform differently. “
The exhibition also features a film produced by the boys of Friars School, Bangor during the early 1960s. Shot in vivid colour, it portrays the eviction of the village of Capel Celyn and its surrounding farms to build a new reservoir primarily for residents and businesses of Liverpool. 'The Story Tryweryn', involved Geoff Charles' son a pupil at the school who worked as a cameraman. Since 1956, Geoff Charles had covered the events and ramifications of the flooding of the Tryweryn valley in some detail.
“Combining the photographs with the film, produces some interesting social, cultural and political differences. The collision of the still and moving image, of garish Kodachrome colour with monochrome, of amateur cinematography and newspaper coverage of events, conveys something of the deep tensions of the period.”
Without Words : The Photographs of Geoff Charles is exhibited at Y Lle Celf, National Eisteddfod of Wales, Wrexham & District, 30 July – 6 August 2011.
Without Words : The Photographs of Geoff Charles was commissioned by the National Eisteddfod of Wales with the assistance of the National Library of Wales and the Univesity of Wales, Newport and Swansea Metropolitan University. The exhibition is supported by a grant from Arts Council of Wales.