Lucy Whitehead meets photographer Jooney Woodward to discuss her forthcoming exhibition
Documentary photographer Jooney Woodward’s latest works will be showcased at Machynlleth’s Welsh Museum of Modern Art this September. In what will be her first solo exhibition Unhidden, Documentary Photographs of Contemporary Wales, Woodward will explore the understated beauty and real character of the overlooked places and small towns that tourists bypass – the anti-beauty spot.
Woodward first came to my attention in 2005 when she was highly commended in the Observer Hodge Photographic Award, an international documentary prize for young up-and-coming photographers, for a series of photographs shot in south and mid-Wales.
Woodward is actually based in London but has spent much of her time travelling extensively throughout Wales, documenting the people and the places she has met en route. Her subject matter has been inspired by these road trips taking in urban landscapes, roadside cafés and also events she has seen signposted around the country.
I had the chance to meet Woodward recently to discuss her forthcoming exhibition and how she wanted to address the strong populist vision of Wales – the chocolate box rolling green valleys and the postcard daffodils. She presents an alternative picture of the country, one that avoids sentimentality and seeks to explore the nuances of local Welsh culture, attitudes and lifestyles. It’s possible to see the influence of photographers such as John Kippin and John Davies, whose work challenges the ideas of traditional landscape portrayal.
Woodward is really inspired and excited about the show at MOMA Wales: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to bring my style of photography to a gallery which triumphs art in Wales.” She hopes that this exhibition is just the start of a long working relationship with Wales. “My aim would be to bring this exhibition back to a London venue to a different audience less familiar with the subject. I’m going to continue to shoot in Wales over the next few years, as I would love to get a body of work together for a book project. I’ve got lots of places still to visit. I’m off to the Royal Welsh Show next month, which will be fantastic, and will end this current trip in Rhyl”.
And her tools for her trade. “I use a Mamiya RZ, medium format film camera. It’s more of a studio camera and therefore it’s quite heavy, but I love the results I get from it. I prefer the quality and depth you get from using film. I don’t mess around with Photoshop, so what you see is what you get. We’re in an environment now where we are inundated by enhanced images, which portray a false sense of reality. My work celebrates the people and places as they appear every day.”
And how has the travelling been? “The weather hasn’t always been on my side and I’ve had some interesting challenges. I’ve been towed out twice from snow and then mud! But it had been my aim to get off the beaten track and I’ve met some great characters along the way who’ve had some brilliant stories to tell.”
Woodward was born in London in 1979 but moved to Dorset when she was five. After taking her foundation year at Bournemouth College of Art and Design she went on to study graphic design specialising in photography at Camberwell College of Art, graduating in 2001. She was highly commended for the first time in The Observer Hodge Photographic award, for a series of photographs from the final year of her degree. These pictures of her parents were exhibited at the Proud Galleries in London. After graduating she worked in the Vogue Photographic Archive of Condé Nast Publications where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the work of some of the greatest fashion and portrait photographers.
Anyone interested in Jooney Woodward’s work may find further details at www.jooneywoodward.co.uk
Unhidden, Documentary Photographs of Contemporary Wales runs from Monday 20 September to Saturday 6 November at MOMA Wales in Machynlleth, www.momawales.org.uk