Launch of the Democracy in Action photography competition
15 / 05 / 2012
The Democracy in Action photography competition was launched last night at Newport City Campus.
The evening was opened by Barry Atkins, Head of the University of Wales, Newport’s School of Film, Photography and Digital Media. The assembled guests included judges Rosemary Butler AM, David Hurn, Betina Skovbro, Gideon Koppel and Dai Smith, as well as other luminaries from the Welsh photographic scene.
After welcoming the guests into one of the new campus’s lecture theatres, Barry articulated the School’s longstanding commitment to widening participation in educational and cultural activity. The competition and the attendant partnership with the National Assembly for Wales would, he said, strengthen this ambition of engaging new audiences.
Rosemary Butler AM, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, and chair of the judging panel spoke next. The competition was, said Rosemary, a unique opportunity for the Assembly to illustrate that democracy in Wales was not something that was confined to politicians in Cardiff Bay or Westminster. The hope was that participants will highlight issues that they feel would benefit from change, and possibly, will illustrate how an action by individuals, communities or families can effect such a change.
The launch of the competition was tied in closely with the celebration of 100 Years of Photography at Newport project. Paul Cabuts, head of Photography at Newport University described photography as one of the most democratic mediums, that has been used to catalogue people’s stories for over a century. He showed images from the Newport Project which had catalogued change. The Democracy In Action competition was another manifestation of documentary photography, said Paul, where the most important aspect of the picture was not its technical composition, but the story that it told.
David Drake, director of Ffotogallery, also expressed his enthusiasm for the project, and explained that in his experience with Ffotogallery, photography not only took Wales to the world, it also drew the world into Wales, with photographers from all ocer the globe coming to draw inspiration and take images here.
The evening was rounded up with a typically humorous, pithy and succinct summation from David Hurn, celebrated Magnum Photographer and founder of the famous School of Documentary Photography in Newport. He spoke passionately about the immediacy of photography, the medium where both artist and subject must be in close proximity. That proximity ensured that the artist could tell his or her story from a unique perspective, and it was that uniqe story that gave the medium its enduring relevance. And what was his final work of advice for anyone wanting to take good photographs? To ensure that they wore comfortable shoes!