Oral Presentation Script

Hello. My name is Angharad and today, I will walk you through my background, working themes, and future project plans.  

I studied English Literature at Aberystwyth University and whilst I was there, I fell in love with the town and rugged surrounding landscapes. It felt easy to marry up romantic scenes from the verses and prose I was reading with the world I was seeing.

‘We need the tonic of wilderness… At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us…’[1] (Thoreau and Meyer, 2016)

In living in this Victorian town, a sense of pathetic fallacy permeated though my images, from the raging storms battering the seafront mimicking stressful exam seasons and breakups, to entire weeks of perfect golden hours glowing over the bustling beaches accentuating another successful day of writing and socialising. I used to often inch the white balance and saturation up in photos, and despite this terrible photography faux pas, it has left me with snapshots of university life in idyllic rose tinted glasses.

After graduating, I walked straight into my first full time job so I could stay in Aberystwyth, and despite having a salary and solid routine behind me, I struggled to find time to pick up the camera. My photos turned into merely demonstrating the passing of time, my friends and family living a glamourised version of life. And with the candid coffee snaps and selfies, I tried to convince the ruthless LinkedIn world I had it all figured out – and for the longest time, I thought I did.

Sadly, my newly found adult life was snatched away in a heart-beat. I was in a car accident that severely broke my leg in three places and took away my ability to walk for almost a year. I could not hold a camera because of crutches, I could not work, I could not sleep from the pain. British photographer, Giles Duley, suffered life changing injuries from an IED whilst working in Afghanistan in 2011. Listening to his experience of the recovery and making plans despite the circumstances brought me solace that I am not alone in my battle to recover – and that there is hope:

“My mind wandered, drifting on a mixture of morphine, exhaustion and fear and so          battling to keep my sanity and to pass the dragging hours I’d challenge myself with         mental exercises. My favourite was thinking of portraits I wished I could do, creating a     list of the 100 people I most wanted to photograph. My first love in photography was       portraiture. I love telling someone’s story through an image, trying to capture some   essence of character in a frozen moment.”[2] (Giles Duley Photographer | All About Photo, 2021)

My second graduation flew around in an instant and my time off work had given me a moment to recover and consider my future project goals. In almost losing my life, I found myself searching for a higher purpose. I could see a new clear reoccurring motif emerging in my photographs, recording and authenticating the events that occur around my life, often in a natural window-like way. Like Duley, my photos became about documenting my friend’s truest lives as they pottered about, I was finished with capturing only faux perfection, it was time to capture the truth.

It was around this time that my external fixator was removed and the first lockdown began in the UK. It felt like the Sisters of Fate were haunting me by measuring my thread in the corner of the room as my night terrors from the crash continued. One evening, my brother was getting ready for another nightshift at Tesco and his pure, crippling tiredness was etched on his face as the sun blared through the windows. I later submitted it to the National Portrait Gallery for the Hold Still Exhibition and seeing it featured across the internet has been a whirlwind. This was my sign from the world to keep going, and I became aware that my photographs were under exposed or moody even when it was blue skies and golden weather, the natural pathetic fallacy was gone, and the projection of my mood was appearing. I thought I could find the change in the world by continuing to work in public service, but like many poets and artists before me, professional employment is not always the path to invoke a revolution of ideas.

Modernist writer Virginia Woolf commented in her Moments of Being[3] essays that she had a ‘…deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life’. (Woolf, Schulkind and Lee, 2002). I too ached to budge the needle among my peers and thrive in the act of raising a mirror to force readers to examine their own circumstances and take stock of their surroundings. Charles Dickens wrote Hard Times[4] as a commentary on the social and economic issues of the industrial age, and I want my projects to reflect current and future issues of the day. For example, Harry Styles featured on the cover of Vogue in a stereotypically female outfit and was slammed with “Bring back manly men”. This phrase was reposted by himself with the image – almost making a mockery of the idea that only women can wear dresses in the 21st century. In this spirit, I snapped my other half with a brush of makeup to join the conversation and challenge the boundaries of our identities.

My housemates and pets were often my muses as they drank in lockdown and the stream of consciousness style of capturing images had allowed me to candidly display a particular perspective on the world, but I wanted to double down. Lee Freidlander, an American photographer known for his intriguing and intimate snapshots of the public, once said that ‘I tend to photograph the things that get in front of my camera’.[5] (Wiley, 2021) and he took an image[6] which struck me as he and his wife look straight through the camera, raising a glass.- almost as though to invite one in to join them. The action of cheers incurs a relationship with all images that have a resemblance to the action. It is amusing that despite the world’s circumstances, we never change. I then looked into Freidlander’s collection, The Shadow Knows, inspired by a radio show that concluded with ‘Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, the shadow knows’ and the disturbing shadow in the frame emulated the act of second glancing to the corner expecting to see an unexpected visitor. 

It dawned on me one day that there was no higher governance, no Sisters of Fate or unlucky charm, only my own unconscious to battle. I stumbled across Carl Jung’s concept of the Shadow and it resonated with me.

             “Unfortunately, there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he           imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied             in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an     unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”[7]                           

I became fixated with internal imagery[8] of this dark sentinel[9] looming over me, it made my hairs stand on edge when it appeared in film or art. The uncanny[10][11] feeling swept over me. I seemed to even be anthropomorphising sadness in my pets. Instead of perpetually running from confronting my memories of the car accident, and distressing scenes in my job, I decided it was time to embrace it. I set up a shoot with a lady sitting in black water to demonstrate the signified depression. Alongside whiteout eyes, staring upwards, searching for the light, for the hope. The image was a representation of my battle to escape.

William Faulkner forced his characters to question the ephemerality of life after the death of the character Mrs Addie Bundren in As I Lay Dying[12]. The ending of the novel shows a new wife introduced and it propels the characters to confront the notion that our identities are volatile and unpredictable, and human existence, tenuous and delicate. In parallel, this carefully crafted exterior I had formed to show others my successes had been shattered in my accident. All this time I was selfishly mourning my old self. I became thankful to be alive at all, to have survived, and that my family were there to catch me. I began to be able to see again, to see the horizons and world beyond my own home. I am so fortunate to be in a job during a pandemic and on top of my finances, it no longer seemed so superficial. The place I lived had saved me in its beauty. I had developed a new fear, what if I lost it all in another heartbeat?

I then found juxtapositions in Friedlanders’s At Work catalogue, the comparison between white collar portraits and candids in grotty work environments drags the reader’s attention to the rapidly changing landscape in 90s employment.  It brought an image to mind that my father took and sent across in a family WhatsApp group. The greenery pokes through the concrete in the dead of winter on a rare sunny day– defying all odds to grow. A metaphor humanity has embodied in the face of adversity.

My next project focus will rely on accessing the National Library of Wales and Local Facebook Groups for key references about West Wales’ history. As I act like Friedlander as the omniscient documenter, I will investigate the theme of featuring people and their environment, those working from home for international banks, employees on scrap metal yards, or baristas in local coffee shops, and those living life to the fullest out on the sea. In doing this, I hope to simultaneously collect information on what makes us uneasy about our future in this world and use it as my basis for the final project.


[1] Thoreau, H. and Meyer, M., 2016. Walden. [Harmondsworth]: Penguin Books.

[2] All-about-photo.com. 2021. Giles Duley Photographer | All About Photo. [online] Available at: <https://www.all-about-photo.com/photographers/photographer/190/giles-duley&gt; [Accessed 9 March 2021].

[3] Woolf, V., Schulkind, J. and Lee, H., 2002. Moments of Being: Autobiographical Writing. London: Pimlico.

[4] Dickens, C., 2010. Hard Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[5] Wiley, C., 2021. Lee Friedlander’s Intimate Portraits of His Wife, Through Sixty Years of Marriage. [online] The New Yorker. Available at: <https://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/lee-friedlanders-intimate-portraits-of-his-wife-through-sixty-years-of-marriage&gt; [Accessed 12 March 2021].

[6] Friedlander, L., 1963. Lee and Maria. [gelatin silver print, printed later, 14 1/2 x 18 1/2 in].

[7] Jung, C., 1992. Psychology and religion. New Haven: Yale University Press.

[8] Sleeping Beauty. 1959. [film] Directed by C. Geronimi, E. Larson, W. Reitherman and L. Clark. United States: Walt Disney Productions.

[9] Parasite. 2019. [film] Directed by B. Joon-ho. South Korea: Barunson E&A.

[10] Freud, S., 2003. The Uncanny. London: Penguin.

[11] Middleton, N., 2005. Photography & The Uncanny.

[12] Faulkner, W., 2004. As I Lay Dying. London: Vintage.

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