Day by Day - photographs by Richard Gaunt @ Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Cardiff, Cardiff [from 5 to 17 March]

Day by Day - photographs by Richard Gaunt

5 - 17
10:30 - 16:00

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Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Cardiff
Harbour Drive, CF10 4PA Cardiff
Richard Gaunt has been taking photographs of everyday life for over 50 years. Not so much the great houses or the grand views, more the corner shops and the backstreets. Most of us take what’s around us for granted, never really noticing how familiar places and familiar faces shape what we do and what we think. Street photography? Well maybe, but with a lot of attention to lighting and composition: day by day is part a nudge to pay more attention to the stuff of daily life and celebrate things we tend to ignore.

But there is another dimension to these images: everyday scenes change subtly but fundamentally all the time. Sometimes it’s fashion, sometimes people just get tired of one way of doing things and pick another, Maybe global technology changes are pushing inexorably onwards. But as years pass, and maybe decades, so much has gone quietly into the night, never to be seen again. Gas lamps, steam engines, Calvert’s disinfectant, Cadet cigarettes…

So the images in day by day bring new angles to looking at the past, and at what we still have. They remind us of the extent of change the last 50 years have brought – with winners and losers, familiar sights gone or gentrified, the remorseless onward march of the motorcar and the computer, and official responses we seem to value future blandness over past richness. These are photographs which make you think.

As well as everyday places and objects, there are images of people doing everyday sorts of things over six decades too. These days, taking photographs of children can land you in all sorts of trouble. In the 1960s, children were more likely to follow the photographer around, seeing what he was up to. ‘Tek mi photo, mister’ was a frequent request. With fewer cars about, the street was a safer place to play; without electronic games, the attractions of throwing spiky burdock burrs to stick in your friend's hair became more apparent.

The images are grouped in themes: the industrial landscape, people, steam power, places of worship, and so on. All of the themes have seen change – often transformed out of all recognition. Because of this, we all bring our own perspectives when we look at the images in day by day. Do we see interesting textures and shapes in worn out pits and factories. Or nostalgic links with industrial might of the past? Or is the thought of lost jobs and shattered communities too strong to think about anything else? Did people really wear flared trousers? Is the glass half empty or half all?

A lot of the images come from Cardiff, the industrial bits of South Wales, and the North of England. Some bring messages of lost industrial opportunity and world markets which UK businesses once dominated, but don’t dominate now.

But this exhibition isn’t about strategies or grand plans; it’s about daily life — mainly in Britain but covering, scenes from, literally, Vienna to Mexico City. A few of the images have been seen in books already, but most haven’t been published before. And they nearly didn’t see the light of day at all, for they had been packed away in a loft in Roath for many years and might well have ended in landfill.
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