capturing air, 22nd October 2016

I wasn’t in the country at the time… not even in the UK……. not even in this hemisphere on the morning of the 21st October 1966 when the village of Aberfan in Wales became headlines, when the massive ‘tip number seven‘, a coal spoil heap above the village collapsed creating an avalanche that crashed down burying house, people and a the Pantglas Junior School filled all in all killing 116 children and 18 adults with more injured and even more lost over the years that followed through grief, PTSD and suicide…. when you start to try and write something about it it becomes almost impossible…. looking back what’s struck me most vividly is not the statistics but the photographs…. those images show both the ordinariness and extra-ordinariness of what happened that day which lasted minutes and yet will last countless lifetimes……. the stark still pictures are fascinating, in stark black and white as was the stock-in-trade for photojournalists….. the landscape, buildings, people, their clothes, their faces…. even the air captured in freeze-frame……. survivors expressions, caught in a moment, whether stood staring in disbelief or shovel in hand digging, digging, digging… it was a black and white moment with everything and everyone caked in coal dust their pale valleys skin barely visible……. the quality of the photos is remarkable and yet for them to even exist this had to happen….  no one wants to do  this, not even the photographer, but it’s crucial it is, apart from being an historical document they can help towards understandings of a kind… these ‘stories’ as each one is in particular don’t sensationalise, they’re aren’t the parasitic snappings of paparazzi…… they carry their own burdens and responsibilities, of loss, horror, grief, trauma, even beauty, as well as being remarkable despite what they portray and reveal……… if we only documented the happy moments then what kind of ‘truths‘ would we be passing down?

 

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