We Are Cardiff photographer Jon Pountney publishes ‘Cardiff before Cardiff’
During the 1970s and early ’80s, hundreds of prints and negatives of Cardiff were taken by the photographer Keith S. Robertson.
These were left forgotten in drawers in an artist’s studio in the city, with the photographer being told that his years of work had been burned and destroyed.
However, exactly two years ago the photographs were finally recovered by another photographer, Jon Pountney, who realised their value immediately.
The result of his restorative work on the photographs, and the reaction generated from the people portrayed or who have seen them, is published this week by Y Lolfa in a new book called Cardiff before Cardiff.
“I discovered the prints and negatives whilst renovating Warwick Hall, a building in the Gabalfa area of Cardiff, and was instantly struck by the quality of the prints,” explains Jon Pountney.
“The pictures were amazing; ordinary people going about their day, looking as if they could step off the page… What was very striking was the rich vein of community, smiles, winks and laughter.
“A couple of these pictures were stamped ‘Keith S. Robertson’, but that was all. So I created a new blog, called Cardiff before Cardiff, and shared a few photos on the website in an effort to learn more about this photographer. They were seen by a journalist, who subsequently put a number of the prints in a newspaper. The response was immense, and resulted in me being able to reunite Keith with his photographs once more.”
In Cardiff before Cardiff, Robertson’s powerful black and white images show the people and streets of Splott and other areas of Cardiff during the 1970s and the early ’80s, and Pountney’s work revisits some of those same areas today, showing how little has changed, and vice versa.
“Ever since I found those photos, I’ve been shooting Cardiff in a response to Keith’s work,” adds Jon. “It’s inspired me to step out into the streets of Cardiff and make the work I’ve always wanted to do. In this new book, my pictures appear side by side with Keith’s, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
The book’s author, Alun Gibbard says, “What has breathed life into Cardiff before Cardiff is the response of the city’s people. On seeing the black and white images in the press, on the blog and Facebook, people began to respond. Someone would recognise themselves in a photograph, or their father, mother or child. Some saw photographs of their family for the first time.”
Jon Pountney and Alun Gibbard will be signing copies of Cardiff before Cardiff in the city’s WHSmith on Thursday, 20th of December between 4 and 5pm. YourCardiff has also published an interview with Jon today.