SWARM Artist Statement: Keith Jones

I grew up in the Sirhowy Valley, going to school in Pontllanfraith and took up photography in my late teens with some success. A Welsh political magazine printed some of my shots in the early 1980’s. I remember a colleague walking into a large newsagent, standing at the opposite end of the shop, holding up the magazine and shouting at the top of her voice several times “Are these YOUR photos?” We were asked to leave! Sadly, shortly after the magazine went ‘bust’.

Later I moved to London to study and stayed, living and working for several years, and later near Barcelona, before returning to Wales in 2009 so have only ‘dabbled’ in photography in the intervening years.

Photography, especially developing, can be very expensive and after deliberating for a long time as I didn’t want to waste money on something I couldn’t manage, I saw a digital camera I liked. Then ‘lockdown’ happened, and everything changed.

I wanted to increase my level of physical activity but there were also travel restrictions during the early stages of the pandemic, so I began to ‘re-connect’ with my local environment. Then bought a camera as attempt to get me ‘out ‘n about’ and to make me ‘walk’. After all, it’s far easier than getting a dog, takes a lot less maintenance, and no Vet’s bills!

We have so much beauty around us in Southeast Wales – we don’t know what’s on our doorstep. And, when I’ve been taking visitors around, it’s amazing to see things through THEIR eyes too. For example, some friends from Finland: their landscape is quite ‘flat’ and trees are usually just fir trees so they are amazed at the hills and valleys, being able to see the horizon, and all the different shades of ‘green’ on the trees.

I’m self-taught and don’t go out with my camera every day, or religiously watch weather forecasts and chase changing weather patterns to get ‘the’ best shot. But I’m pleased with some of my results. It’s fun, you don’t have to rely on or wait for anyone else and can do it as and when the mood takes you. Most of the time, if people are around, they always stop and chat, ask about what I’ shooting so it’s a frequent ‘conversation starter’. And they always seem to want to ‘suggest’ something to shoot so recently I’ve been ‘having a go’ at some ducks, lizards and even cows around the Forest Drive.  

I’m retired but still learning. I have learning difficulties so the ‘technical bits’ of manipulating the f-stop and film speed etc are a bit of a challenge. Usually I simply just ‘point and shoot’.

But friends love seeing my photos and have been very encouraging, and several shots have been printed in the South Wales Argus ‘photo of the day’ and ‘theme’ days quite regularly. In February I entered Newport Photo Marathon – and won two prizes. And now have been selected for ‘Swarm’, so I must be doing something right.

You don’t need loads of expensive equipment to enjoy photography (some camera phones are superb!), you just need ‘an eye’, and the right moment in time.

I think that when I pick up my camera and look through the lens, I see the World differently.