Newport photography celebrates centenary

By Andy Roberts
BBC News

image captionLocal life through the 1980s was captured by Newport photography students

Photos showing the life and times of Newport in the 1980s are being shown to mark 100 years of photography at the city's university.

The annual Newport Survey was one of the most significant results of a documentary photography course launched by David Hurn in 1973.

Senior lecturer Dr Paul Cabuts said the course enjoyed a worldwide reputation.

"People come to study photography at Newport because they see it as a centre of excellence," he said.

Photography was first taught at the then School of Art, part of the Newport Technical Institute, in 1912.

image captionNewport became known for documentary photography in the 1970s

School head William Bush was a keen amateur photographer who had judged the discipline at three National Eisteddfodau.

But Dr Cabuts said the thrust of the course was very different in those days.

"Despite being at an art school, the class was very much more technical, with engineering and industry driving it," he said.

"It enters the field of the arts more in the 1960s, when people like the painter David Hockney would visit."

The Swinging Sixties saw the emergence of the photographer as personality, with the likes of David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy becoming as famous as the stars they portrayed.

But Dr Cabuts says it was another figure who was particularly significant where Newport was concerned.

World view

"It really took off when Magnum photographer David Hurn decided to return to Wales and set up a documentary photography course in what was the Gwent College of Higher Education in 1973," he said.

image captionAnastasia Taylor-Lind won an award for her photos of Kurdish warrior women in northern Iraq

"He was interested in teaching photography in a humanist sense, to make the world a better place, encouraging students to say something about the world."

Hurn's presence at the college was a draw for visits by major photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Don Cullen, while others including Ron McCormick and John Charity joined the college staff.

Students of photography at Newport have included the war and landscape photographer Simon Norfolk, and Paul Rees, a current member of staff whose work represented Britain at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Recent students to have made an impact include Anastasia Taylor-Lind, who won a Guardian newspaper award in 2006 for her photos of Kurdish warrior women in northern Iraq, and Matt Dunham, who captured images of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall's car caught up in the London riots of 2011.

The centenary is being marked by a series of events throughout the year, including the current exhibition based on the Newport Survey, which documented the changing face of local life during the 1980s.

A special event on Thursday will be attended by staff, students, and some of the people who appeared in the original photos.

Dr Cabuts said Newport had grown in reputation since being one of only a handful of UK colleges teaching documentary photography in the 1970s.

image captionA photo of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall caught up in the London riots by Newport graduate Matt Dunham was seen around the world

He said it now taught around 600 students from foundation level to PhD, and was globally renowned.

"We accept students from the USA, Japan, China, all over the world," he said.

"People come to study photography at Newport because they see it as a centre of excellence."

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