In summer 2011 Alicia Bruce spent three months in Blaenavon, an ex-mining town in the South Wales Valleys. She was the first photographer commissioned by Ffotogallery’s Valley’s Archive project since 1990 following in the footsteps of David Bailey, John Davies, Peter Fraser, Francesca Odell and Paul Reas. Bruce’s practice involves fully integrating herself with communities and creating work about those who inhabit them.
Bruce used the artwork ‘Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting’ by William Dyce (1806 – 1864) held in National Museum Wales collection as a starting point drawing parallels with her own heritage. Dyce was, like Bruce, originally from Aberdeen, Scotland and came to Wales for his health and a change of air in 1860. The painting was created in 1860, 20 years after the birth of photography, oil on millboard crates the look of a colour glossy photograph and the displacement of figures create an early day Photoshop of sorts. “I wished to question the romanticised view of this painting and hold a mirror up to The Valleys in 2011. I made three photographs in response Dyce’s work at Foxhunter on the Blaenavon hilltops. I collaborated with Mike & Holly, a grandfather & granddaughter, Claire & Jenny, who run a wool shop and Paul & Heidi who run Oakfield B&B where I stayed in my final weeks in The Valleys.“ The series also features collaborative portraits of people Bruce encountered during her time in The Valleys in collaborative portraits that take inspiration from The National Museum of Wales collection and from the individuals themselves.