World’s First Photography Study of Independence in Aberystwyth

A piece named ‘Misfit’ by Neil McGuff, Chair of Aberystwyth Camera Club

A piece named ‘Misfit’ by Neil McGuff, Chair of Aberystwyth Camera Club

12 April 2023

Aberystwyth’s bandstand will showcase a world-first series of photographic collections exploring how people’s life experiences impact on their attitudes to independence in Catalonia, Wales, and Scotland.

The pop-up exhibition, Head / Heart: Framing Future Wales, is open to the public between 10am and 5pm over the next three days (13-15 April 2023) and is part of a study led by Aberystwyth academics.

The research marks a fundamental shift in how independence has been studied to date. Project leaders Dr Anwen Elias and Dr Elin Royles from the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society at Aberystwyth University are using photography to better understand people’s thoughts and feelings about independence in the three countries.

The inaugural exhibition is in Aberystwyth, with displays of the collection in Barcelona and Edinburgh to follow.

Dr Elin Royles explains: “We’re working in Wales, Catalonia and Scotland to develop a brand-new approach to ‘Independence’ research. The bulk of previous research has focused solely on survey responses and demographics, such as age, gender, social class and income, but we delve deeper and are interested in learning how we can explain how people think and feel about the constitutional futures of their respective countries.

“Our approach is a world-first and should add much needed colour and shade to what is currently known about people’s views in relation to Independence. Most importantly, it could lead to more nuanced discussion, particularly in Catalonia and Scotland, where debate is intense and polarised among political parties and the media.”

The exhibition will be formally launched Thursday evening (13 April) by Ceredigion MS Elin Jones MS and the Senedd’s Presiding Officer. Commenting on the aims of the project and exhibition she said: “Given the debate happening in Wales, England and Scotland about the future of the UK constitution, I welcome this research led by Aberystwyth University. Putting party political positions aside, developing a deeper understanding of people's views on independence is important to Welsh democracy.”

Aberystwyth Camera Club Chair, Neil McGuff, whose photography is shown in the first collection, urges other photography clubs and classes to get involved: “Myself and other members of the photography club really enjoyed taking part in this research. Using our creativity to explore the idea of independence has led to some fascinating conversations among the group and opened my eyes to the way each of us can approach a divisive topic. I would highly recommend any photography club or class to get involved as it offers a wonderful opportunity to pursue your creativity and to potentially have your final photography exhibited in a location such as Barcelona.”

The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of its WISERD programme (Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data).