100 Years Of Photography At Newport

Jubilee Project 1977

February 27, 2012  by admin

The Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne.  Jubilee Day, which took place on June 7th 1977, became an opportunity for Documentary Photography students to be put through their paces.  A statement about the student project written at the time noted that,

“Jubilee Day provided the opportunity for fourteen photographers on the Documentary Photography Course at Gwent College of Higher Education to put their training to professional test.  They covered over twenty locations throughout the UK to attempt to show not only what was happening in London, but also the rest of the country.  London obviously produced visually the greatest show of pageantry; however, the rest of the country, in traditional ways, enjoyed the opportunity of getting together and pursuing country customs”.

The photographs showed a range of activities taken at numerous locations including Newport, Llanhilleth, Bridlington, Nottingham, Reading, Barry Island and, of course, London.  The photographs captured street parties, houses decorated in flags and pictures of the Queen, Fancy Hat competitions, a Queen lookalike on a ‘state visit’ to a disco, a tug-of-war competition, the vast crowds waiting to see the Queen in London, and the Queen herself in the state carriage with Prince Phillip.

Anthony Stevens, who was an art lecturer at Newport during the period, later reflected on this event and the influence of David Hurn on the ethos of the course and the expectations of photography and the photography students.

“David Hurn had an enormous impact… When the Queen had some sort of celebration there were all these street parties in the valleys and everyone had the day off.  David got his students to shoot pictures of the street parties, bring them back to Clarence Place, develop them, print them up.  They took them to the station in Newport, they got them on the train to London, they had a motorcyclist in London who ran them across to Victoria and train out of Victoria and they were in Paris in the afternoon.  They were in French magazines the next day.

They didn’t have trade cards so they couldn’t be printed in British magazines.  He showed them how to do a rush job, how to market it and how to place it.  He had the contacts to do that, you couldn’t do that without the contacts”.

It is worth reflecting that in the year when the Diamond Jubilee marks sixty years of The Queen’s reign, such a project would be very different.  Digital technology allows photographs to be taken, edited and transmitted almost instantaneously and could now be with a French magazine, for example, with minutes of being taken.  However, the rest of the photographer’s work throws up the same challenges of knowing the markets, being in the right place at the right time, and being able to get clients to take and distribute the work to audiences.