DAVID HURN: YNYSHIR, 25 MILE RADIUS
Workers Gallery, Ynyshir, nr Porth
Until Sat 4 Jan
From covering the 1956 Hungarian Revolution to shooting portraits of Sean Connery in an iconic James Bond pose, as well as other stars like the Beatles, Jane Fonda and Sophia Loren, David Hurn has snapped it all. Now, in his decades-long career as a globally renowned photographer, Hurn’s turned his expert eye to the local: the Workers Gallery, where his exhibition Ynyshir, 25 Mile Radius opened in November.
These days, the esteemed photographer (who is now 85 years old) has let it be known that gallery showings aren’t exactly a top priority. “It sounds pompous, but it seems to me you get to a stage in your life where, as a photographer, you want to give a little bit more back into the community,” he tells me. “Obviously, one way of doing that is to work with small local galleries, but if I’m going to do that, I want to do it for a reason other than ‘David Hurn is having a show’ kind of thing.
“One of the reasons I devised the play of saying ’25-mile radius’ is, since 1970, I’ve shot so many pictures in Wales that I can more or less pick anywhere in Wales and do a 25-mile radius. That makes the show very much a local community one, because it’s all to do with pictures people can associate with.
“I’m spending a day shooting portraits of people in the community of which each person I shoot a portrait of gets a free print.” People will be able to purchase extra portrait prints, and all the money goes to the Workers. “Anything that I’m doing directly with the gallery, the money is going to the gallery.
“Galleries, more than anything, need money, and the sad thing is the money in South Wales from the various people that give out money, is going to the wrong places. If you’re going to support photography in Wales, one should be supporting photography which is either taken in Wales or by Welsh photographers. My feeling is the money that’s available – whether it be from lottery, grants, the Arts Council, the British Council or anything – isn’t necessarily going to the places which promote Welsh photography best. There are two worthwhile photo festivals in Wales – the Eye Festival in Aberystwyth and the Northern Eye Festival in Colwyn Bay. Both of those, which are the festivals that most promote photography in Wales, get very little money.”
When asked about how young Welsh photographers can be inspired and encouraged, Hurn gives an especially passionate answer. “You need a centre which really does promote photography in Wales. [An] organization of which its remit is to show photography from the history of Wales of which the library in Aberystwyth has the finest collection of 19th century pictures taken in Wales in the world. A gallery somewhere which is showing young Welsh photography or any Welsh photography. That’s where the major money should be going. Somebody could come from abroad and shoot pictures of Wales in a way they could be supported. At the moment, that’s not happening.”
And his advice to aspiring photographers? “Take lots and lots and lots pictures! It seems pretty obvious, but if you look at the best photographers – people considered by their peers to be the best photographers in the world – one of the things they all have in common is they shoot an awful lot of pictures.
“If you’re starting, it’s very difficult to know what it is you have that somebody doesn’t have. There’s not much point in shooting pictures like your friends, because how on earth are you going to make a living if you shoot pictures like other people? As you shoot lots of pictures, you’ll begin to discover that some you prefer a bit more than others, and therefore, you’ll shoot more and more of that sort of picture. It’s not rocket science. If you take a great pianist for example, when they start, they play an enormous amount of music. Slowly they begin to find they specialise in Bartok, Beethoven or Mozart. They do that because they play an enormous amount and suddenly find there are areas they are more passionate about and therefore play better than their peers. That’s a rule of thumb.
“Photography is open to anybody to do, so I’m trying to persuade young people in the community – this is possibly for you. I keep emphasising the fact that photography is a job – a very enjoyable job. I’m trying to say to young people – you don’t have to think of it as some esoteric art thing that’s not for you.”
David Hurn: Ynyshir, 25 Mile Radius, Workers Gallery, Ynyshir, nr Porth, until Sat 4 Jan. Info: 01443 682024 / www.workersgallery.co.uk
words RHONDA LEE REALI photos DAVID HURN