An on-going photography project documenting the seaport town of Holyhead

Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law

Hi Robert, thank you for sharing your on-going project with us. Where did the inspiration for this project come from for this project to start? 

I started documenting the seaport town of Holyhead about three years ago. What started as a ‘new topographic’ series, quickly grew and assimilated the socio-political undercurrent of Brexit. By taking an honest look at the town and its people, it tries to decode the obvious paradox of a town that is a gateway to the EU, voting to leave the EU. This is also in common with many other coastal communities in the UK.

The town has certainly been overlooked as a mere thoroughfare for people and goods travelling to and from Dublin. Current lack of employment and austerity has only compounded the town’s problems, leading to a sense of betrayal, alienation and helplessness. 

But digging a little deeper, a strong, cohesive community spirit is revealed through a shared history of resilience; the kind that is especially apparent in maritime communities. 

Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law

Like many young people in the town, Owain was drawn towards the harbour in his spare time for some sea angling. A conversation about the day’s catch (or lack of) is always good conversation starter when gaining the views of strangers.

Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law

Talking to the lady who served me, she remarked that tourists sometimes came to the shop asking where the town centre was. She told me how her heart sank when she would tell them that ‘this IS the centre’.

Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law

A Welsh-speaking native of Holyhead, Emrys was leaving his regular pub to mount his bicycle and ride home. He was happy to oblige for a portrait as I took advantage of how his clothes coordinated with the pub. Holy Island, being an island off the Isle of Anglesey itself, has a rich mix of Welsh, Irish and English people. The Second World War even bought Dutch sailors to the town, where 116 married local women. International connections naturally abound, interwoven with Holyhead’s unique heritage, dating back to pre-history.

Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law

Mary has led a fascinating and productive life, dedicating herself to helping others. From nursing as a young lady, to becoming a missionary and travelling alone to Albania with books for schoolchildren when it was still effectively a closed country. Active in her local church, she’s a passionate advocate for her religion, but leading by example. I asked her what was in her trolley? - ‘Food for the local food bank’.

Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law

It was an honour to meet Ben and take his portrait after he’d paused to let me take a photograph from the other side of the road. He was visiting the town from nearby that day. I asked him about his sunglasses and he explained they were to help with his autism by cutting down an overload of visual information. Subsequently, this portrait was published in the landmark book, Portrait of Britain 2019. I was delighted to be able to present Ben with a copy as a thank you.

Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law

Young people at play, overlooking Holyhead’s harbour area. Will this generation see any significant change in the future? Will their futures remain within the town, even? Economic decline has become a way of life in the area and being a trade thoroughfare doesn’t necessarily equate to local prosperity.

Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law
Holyhead - Robert Law

 Images from this series have been shortlisted for Portrait of Britain 2019, the British Photography Awards 2019 and the ESPY Awards 2019. Work from the series was recently published in Creative Review as part of an article ‘Documenting the Now’.

More from this project and further projects by Robert Law can be found online

http://www.wtgphoto.com/

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Twitter: @robs001

Instagram: with_the_grain_photo