“The sea starts where the land ends; its surface is all flowers, but within are the grim inmates.” Renowned Welsh poet R.S. Thomas penned those amazing words in his poem Fishing, and how they have gone on to inspire others.
Acclaimed British photographer Aled Rhys Hughes, 50, who is fuelled by his fascination for the sea and inspired by Thomas’s works, has been photographing the coastlines of Wales for the last 25 years.
Twenty four of Hughes’ stunning photographs, shot on large format film cameras, are currently on display at the Print Room in Petaling Jaya for his Gwlad Fy Nhadau (Welsh for Land of My Fathers) exhibition.
The show will run until May 15. Hughes, who was part of the 10 – Abstract Works Of 10 Photographers at the Print Room in 2011, has a more comprehensive career haul for this current exhibition. He says Gwlad Fy Nhadau brings together his best works from the last 10 years, comprising images he photographed in Wales and a few from his travels to Scotland and France. Interestingly, the images from France are from a centenary commemoration of the Welsh involvement at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
“Naming the exhibition Gwlad Fy Nhadau is an attempt to place myself and the works in a geographical context. However, the title also suggests a personal link to a country, and in my case that is Wales, where my family have been for generations and where I have a strong sense of belonging,” says Hughes.
The Welshman was born in the Rhondda Valley, and now lives in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire. He works as a photographer/artist and lecturer.
Hughes, a graduate in photography from the University of Walles College Newport, won the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 2006 for his photographic series Farewell Rock.
He has contributed to many books, including the noted The Welsh Lens (Museum of Modern Art, 1996) and Rhyfedd O Fyd (Gomer Press, 2006). He also authored the book Mor Goleuni Tir Tywyll (Gomer), a volume to celebrate the centenary of the renowned Welsh poet, Waldo Williams, in 2004.
Paul Gadd, the Print Room’s director, says he has always admired Hughes’ works.
“When I studied photography in Wales, he was the technician at my university, and everyone knew him to be brilliant, especially at colour photography. He could look at your print and tell you exactly how much cyan or magenta your print needed.
“He also shoots with a large format, 8×10 camera, which takes a lot of skill and patience. He is very patriotic about his homeland. It often takes him years to complete his projects, so we at the Print Room feel lucky to be able to show his work here in Kuala Lumpur,” says Gadd.
One of the most stunning photographs is one of a beach in Rhossili, Wales.
“The image speaks about the enormity of the sea and how small we are compared to it,” says Hughes.
In the photograph, appearing almost like a dot, is a person, a lone figure, standing before the mighty sea. Hughes used a 100-year-old camera to capture that very moment.
“It is very slow to set up and quite cumbersome to use. Just as I was about to make the image, I could see someone walking into the scene! This person was too far away to shout at and my voice would have been drowned out by the noise of the crashing waves.
“But in an instant the person stopped, looked out to the sea and I made my one and only exposure and the person walked on. I knew that I had something good,” recalls Hughes.
Gwlad Fy Nhadau is on at the Print Room, 49, Lorong 16/9E, Section 16, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, till May 15. Call 012-337 2903, log on to theprintroomkl.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details.