Image and Imagination
: Creative Photography and the South Wales Valleys

  • Paul Cabuts

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Image and Imagination: Creative Photography and the South Wales Valleys, explores the development of practices within photography undertaken in and about the South Wales Valleys during the second half of the twentieth century.

    Central to this study is an examination of the work of the American photographer W. Eugene Smith, who photographed in the Valleys in 1950, and how his practice influenced the wider development of 'creative photography'. The term 'creative photography' is applied here as a description of photography during a period of its transition, moving beyond a recognised position as a pragmatic communicative medium, toward its wider acknowledgement as a significant form of artistic expression. This study considers a range of processes through which photography largely achieved this acceptance. Particular consideration is given to the development of Smith's career, and how his work moved between ever shifting photo-journalistic and photo-art contexts.

    Photographers working in the Valleys subsequent to Smith are also examined, including those engaged in the Valleys Project' undertaken during the I980's.

    This study reveals how social, economic and political factors not only shaped Smith's work, but also shaped the increasingly varied modes of photographic representation seen in the latter part of the twentieth century.

    The study initially considers the South Wales of the mid-twentieth century and
    how both cinematic and photographic imagery of the region in the decades prior
    to 1950 engendered particular photographic responses from later visitors. The
    national and international contexts for the developments in photographic practice such as magazine and book publishing, along with the growing institutional advocacy for exhibiting photography are also examined. The study concludes with an evaluation of the current status of photographic practice relating to the Valleys of South Wales.
    Date of Award2008
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorIan Walker (Supervisor)


    • Documentary photography
    • South Wales Valleys
    • 20th Century
    • Twentieth Century
    • W. Eugene Smith
    • Creative Photography
    • 'Valleys Project'

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