This vast landscape, scarred and made barren by man’s industrial intervention, has an air of beauty cast upon it by the hand of nature. Ever since the first discovery of earth’s mineral wealth by humans, Mother Nature has been using every element at her disposal, desperately trying to cling on to and reclaim what is rightfully hers. This area of South Wales is a prime example of Nature’s Reclamation, with this mountain landscape showing evidence of extensive coal mining and iron making during the Industrial Revolution. The topography resembles black undulating sand dunes that are constantly shifting and reforming into new and even more complex structures. The main reason for this geological reorganisation is the extreme weather conditions. Situated on top of a mountain, the climate is incredibly variable and therefore difficult for even the hardiest of plant life to grasp the terrain. This hardship results in a microenvironment of rivers, valleys, cliffs, crevices and numerous other features normally found on a much larger scale.
The photographs in this project have focused on the way in which all the elements usually associated with grandeur, have come together to form natures own diminutive landscapes. Each unique illustration has concentrated on one specific area of this vast terrain in a bid to show how nature is trying to claim back a small piece of land it once owned and dominated. Each image in the selection has been specifically kept small and placed upon a large canvas to signify the vastness of the land in contrast to the relatively small area photographed. When the image is placed against the stark white backdrop, it allows the viewer to get a sense of space. Some images have shown just a hint of past industrial usage while others show more recent activities. The square format breaks landscape convention and becomes a grid reference, as if pointing to a specific area of this unique industrial heritage site.
The nearest settlement built up around this landscape is the South Wales town of Blaenavon, a settlement that played a vital part in the Industrial Revolution, which transformed not just the landscape but the culture and society of Wales. After years of decline due to the rising cost of extraction and energy wasted in the coal-mining process, pits started to shut down. The mining sector was then ravaged in the mid-1980s when miners striking against pit closures were crushed after a bitter struggle with the Conservative government of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The area photographed in this project is now known as the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site. Its promotion is greatly assisting in the sensitive regeneration of the area which suffered so badly, both economically and socially, following the decline of the iron and coal industries. As a touring exhibition, this project will give people an insight into the Welsh industrial past and celebrate the redevelopment of this specific area.