Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘Wales’

Tin foil town in the rain

Port Talbot

The rain seeps down the train window in flecked torrents. There are only five disparate passengers in the carriage, but the combined body heat forms a steamy fog on the glass, obscuring the view as we cut through the lush south Wales countryside between Cardiff and Port Talbot.

Awaiting us is a sodden spectacle. An early Saturday morning wash out. Shoppers are so scarce on the semi-covered pedestrian thoroughfare that one could be forgiven for thinking that some nuclear apocalypse had taken the steel town down. The bright lights of the up-and-at-‘em-early charity shops illuminate the watery pavements. Somewhere behind me, steam evaporating into the Tupperware sky, the vast Port Talbot steelworks belches and hums. An ever-present feature of the landscape, now threatened with the same fate which has befallen other steel plants across the United Kingdom.

Protesting against steel job losses, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Protestors, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Under a sturdy canvas canopy, sandwiched between a giant Tesco and the town’s shopping centre a group of people gather to shows solidarity, gather signatures and mutter darkly under the funereal sky about the fate of the plant. Interspersed between talk of saving the steelworks are more common complaints: “bloody weather. I can’t wait for summer,” intones one woman. “But summer’s just like this,” comes the retort from a man who looks as if he’s spent the morning in the shower, fully clothed. Competing with this throng is a man with a bicycle laden with onions for sale: ‘Last day’ reads a mournful sign attached to the bike.

I decide to grasp the soaking nettle and walk out towards the Tata-owned steelworks, by way of an arterial road which leaves the town behind me like a broody, surly neighbour. There’s not much to see, except the sights and sounds of industry: a faint wheezing noise and steaming plumes swirling towards the watery heavens indicate production continuing. But for how long, in the wake of 700 redundancies, it’s hard to know.

A Port Talbot Town FC supporter. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

A Port Talbot Town FC supporter. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

My next stop is the town’s homely little football club. South Wales football competes bravely against its more illustrious cousin rugby union. Nevertheless, the passion amongst the small, colourfully-hatted supporters of Port Talbot Town FC is tangible as they cheer their team on to a cup win on a pitch which has been lined using baking flour at the referee’s insistence in order that the match may proceed.

I learn that the club was formed by a Scottish family who came south to work in the steel industry. it’s a poignant discovery for me as it forms a link with my photographs from the project The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig which I opened at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre two days previously. The parallels between Motherwell and Port Talbot are striking. Let’s just hope that their fates are not the same and that Port Talbot can survive the loss of part of its major industry with less damage and despair that engulfed Motherwell when Europe’s largest hot strip mill was closed in 1992.

Disused cinema, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Disused cinema, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

I’m wished well and sent on my way by smiling football fans. Their team has won three-nil. A small slit in the sky reveals a short pause in the rain, however, it proves to be just a hiatus between downpours. By the time I board the train back to Cardiff, Port Talbot is fast disappearing into a gloomy gloam. Here’s hoping the sun is shining in more ways than one tomorrow.

Under the M4 motorway, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Under the M4 motorway, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Advertising food, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Advertising food, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Window display, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Window display, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Woman with umbrella, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Woman with umbrella, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

View across Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

View across Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Hen party, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Hen party, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Back lane, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Back lane, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

The steelworks at Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

The steelworks at Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

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Football’s becoming home

Supporters of Runcorn Linnets watch their team at local rivals Runcorn Town. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2013 all rights reserved.

Runcorn Linnets at local rivals Runcorn Town. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2013 all rights reserved.

In the week that saw the top tier of English soccer sell the remaining scrap of its soul in a £5bn television deal, my favourite magazine has launched a collection of contemporary and archive football photography which shows a different side of the game.

Showcasing the photography of its four regular contributors, the When Saturday Comes (WSC) ‘Images of Football Culture’ collection allows the viewer to browse images made over the last two decades, including my own work for the magazine.

The unique view of Dundee's stadiums. © Colin McPherson, 2011 all rights reserved.

The unique view of Dundee’s stadiums. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2011 all rights reserved.

My association with WSC started back in the 1980s when I would write the occasional article on Scottish football. The newly-formed magazine was one of the many publications which sprang into life during the fanzine boom of that period and was a response to the increasing commercialisation of the sport and a feeling of alienation amongst supporters across all nations and divisions. Back then, these often home-produced efforts would be glued together, photocopied and sold by supporters on matchdays at their teams’ grounds. Some survived, some rode the wave and disappeared. Others grew and flourished and continue to this day, the ethos and beliefs still there for all to see and read.

Nottingham Forest fans at Derby County. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Nottingham Forest fans at Derby County. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

My association with fanzines and WSC waned until 10 years ago when I was asked to cover the first-ever fixture of newly-formed fans’ team FC United of Manchester for a national newspaper. WSC picked up on the set of photographs and asked to run some in the magazine. Only after publication, did they join the pixels and discover that I was the same person they had commissioned all those years ago. It re-started a love affair with the magazine and for the last decade I have been proud and delighted to have contributed photos and features for WSC on a regular basis.

Outside Goodison Park before a game. © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Outside Goodison Park before a game. © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Now, it’s one of the highlights of the month for me going to a match with my camera for WSC. Whether it’s an international match or a fixture at a non-League club, the approach is always the same: to get under the skin of the sport and to reflect the fans’ experience as seen through the lens.

Behind the scenes at Tow Law Town. Photo © Colin McPherson 2014, all rights reserved.

Behind the scenes at Tow Law Town. Photo © Colin McPherson 2014, all rights reserved.

This growing collection of photography by Simon Gill, Tony Davis, Paul Thompson and myself has been put together by WSC art editor Doug Cheeseman and is available now for licensing images – or just pure nostalgic enjoyment by people who love the sport.

 

 

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