“Days In, Days Out”
Gareth Martin AWPF CPAGB, Monday 11 March 24

“We Welsh are never short of words” said my father and Gareth Martin certainly wasn’t short of a few! He has been described as a ‘master storyteller’ and he is indeed – not just in words but in photographs too.
Gareth entertained us from start to finish, not just with his huge range of pictures but also with the stories that went with every single one. All were delivered with his special form of dry and sometimes self-deprecating humour!

We travelled all over South Wales and visited Scotland, the Yorkshire Dales, and Lincolnshire. Sometimes Gareth went on outings with other members of his camera club but sometimes alone, accompanied just by his boy, his late and much-missed Westie, Pugwash.

Gareth took us inside a characterful old building in Mathry, Pembrokeshire. He talked his way in via an estate agent waiting for clients. There were some wonderfully cobwebby photos of jars, bottles, toys, and tools from a bygone age. I think a lot of us were itching to join him there – itching being the operative word because it all looked so dusty! He then talked his way into an old garage, again filled with ancient, rusting mechanical goodies. You got the impression that Gareth talks his way into a lot of places – with great success!

We saw photos of his ‘man cave’ too– his Mam’s old bedroom at the front of his house – just before it was re-decorated and converted. Lots of gorgeous tatty paint, old wooden floors and battered ancient teddy bears. These photos proved his point that there’s a photo everywhere and in everything – you just have to see it! Very often it’s the post-processing you chose that tells your final story – bright to enhance the colours or monochrome and grungy to make it atmospheric and slightly sinister.

Gareth does photograph nature – if it happens to accidentally fly past his lens – but he prefers music. We saw photos of a Fleetwood Mac Tribute Band. Gareth met the lead singer on a walk in another part of the borough; they got chatting (Gareth loves to chat – it’s a Welsh thing) and discovered that she lived in a road just round from Gareth’s and they went to school together. This happens a lot in Port Talbot. My father also lived in a road just round from Gareth’s and probably went to school with his Mam! Anyway, this led to an invitation to be the band’s photographer which he accepted with relish, and he showed us a series of excellent music shots. My favourite was an informal, candid one taken behind the scenes in a ‘green room’ (hall kitchen) surrounded by water bottles and soft drink cans! As Gareth said, ‘rock and roll’!

Gareth brought prints too – after the break he took us all to the back of the hall to gather around so he could talk about them – a good idea which worked well. Many of the prints were tiny, exquisite, and beautifully detailed. He showed us some of the same images presented in different ways, demonstrating the effect that a crop or a change of processing can have on the atmosphere and the narrative. He spoke in praise of grime and noise – ignore judges – grime and noise can really help convey a mood. Some photos were high key; some demonstrated ECM (Not ICM – Gareth prefers ‘extreme camera movement’); some used negative space very effectively. However, I think the photos that amused us most were his ‘toilet’ series – each with its own story. I went away with visions of Gareth lurking in a Police Station toilet with his camera and tripod, like you do!

Gareth pointed out photos that had done well in competitions and salons - and he also pointed out the ones that hadn’t done so well! The ones that scored 8! He explained the feedback that he had received from judges – but didn’t always take their advice before he preferred the photo as he originally saw it – and we should remember that our photos are our own and that judging is subjective. Make your photos for yourself was, I think, the message Gareth was giving us – but enjoy the feeling of satisfaction when they do well!

Gareth had a long journey to come and see us and we greatly appreciate that. We know he put his time to good use because he ended with a series of photos taken just yesterday! And that’s another thing – Gareth always takes his camera with him; it’s not kept in a bag and only brought out for special occasions. He’s taking photos all the time and, in all weathers, – and we should be doing the same. Indeed, he showed us several examples of stunning photos taken in ‘bad’ weather when other photographers preferred to stay home in the warm and dry.

Gareth, diolch yn fawr for a highly entertaining evening, full of excellent and varied images, that had us all laughing as well as enjoying your photography. I’ll see you in the Cinnamon Kitchen in three weeks’ time!

- Helen Jones