There is currently an exhibition of Edward Burtynsky’s photographic work on display at the Flowers Gallery in London. Burtynsky likes to take pictures predominantly of the impact of man and industry on nature which, in his words:
are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence… We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction.
With images of Railcuts, Quarries and Mines (among other things) we are easily reminded of Mary Gillham whose own landscape was dramatically shaped by industry. Mary was particularly active from the mid-60s at the height of the post-war industrial boom in South Wales right the way through the demise of mining; the long lasting effects it had on the landscape (e.g see our PWC walk) and people; and the struggle to work out how best to transform drastically altered landscapes back into something resembling a natural state.
The Mary Gillham homage to Edward Burtynsky
Mary, the botanist, was interested in how communities of plants re-colonise altered habitats once man has deemed fit to leave them. It is of little surprise that she spent a great deal of time at Cosmeston, Tylorstown, Gelli Draws (among others) observing and recording the succession of plants from early pioneer species to the ones who settle in for the long haul. As an active member of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society and Glamorgan Naturalists’ Trust (later the Wildlife Trust) as well as well-respected botanist in her own right, Mary was involved in discussions and campaigns to protect certain areas as well as being consulted on how best to achieve reversion to a more natural state (such as these communications between Mary and the County of Glamorgan regarding the development of Lavernock Quarry into the Cosmeston Country park and Lakes).
There’s so much to say about the interaction between nature and industry that I am sure we will revisit the subject time and again. However, let me leave you with this hugely interesting blog by dicmortimer on Cardiff’s Quarries which highlights some of the hidden industrial and geological heritage which can easily be found in the area around Cardiff…
It’s always good to walk around with your eyes open, you’ll never know what’s there otherwise!