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Fay Godwin – The Drovers’ Roads of Wales and Other Photographs Exhibition

MOMA, Machynlleth, Powys, Wales – 11th February to 1st April 2017

Paul Gotts

Paul Gotts is an amateur photographer based on Merseyside. He has helped pull together three collaborative photo books showcasing the work of 18 different photographers. He also makes handmade books whether for himself or others, often for charitable causes.


It was reading Jim Robertson’s recent Endframe piece on the 1981 Fay Godwin photograph ‘Four trees, Rannoch Moor’ that finally got me reading about and seeking out the books of this master photographer.

Four trees, Rannoch Moor

I was really pleased therefore to see an exhibition of Fay Godwin’s work advertised as ‘The Drovers’ Roads of Wales and Other Photographs’ in the MOMA Gallery, Machynlleth, Wales. If this awakens a desire for a visit (which is the whole point of this little piece) please note the run ends on 1st April 2017, so you better be quick!

If you look at the On Landscape archive you will see there are some substantial pieces on Fay Godwin already, which are referenced below. They all make interesting reading, particularly the comments threads.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the original exhibition and publication of ‘The Drovers’ Roads of Wales’ the first floor gallery includes a selection of original prints on loan from the National Library of Wales. You can also see some of Fay’s original field note books and photographs of her at work. Under subdued lighting I found the images quiet, contemplative and moving. It was also interesting to watch the video tape of the books author, Shirley Toulson talking about her recollections of Fay – who whilst keen to take photographs of the places mentioned in the text, would do what she wanted if she saw something more interesting – very much her own person.

To reflect the status of Fay Godwin in the landscape photography world the 1977 images have been augmented by 19 new prints of her work chosen by people who knew and collaborated with her. The work is exhibited on the ground floor and stairs and includes extended captions which make a very personal appraisal of the work. One of her sons, Nick Godwin, recalls being on the ‘Four trees’ shoot for example, and John Blakemore comments on the ‘Haven Hill, Bradbourne, Peak District’ (Pp 52, ‘Land’) image – one given to Paul Hill at a 1984 Photography Workshop. Highlights for me were ‘Boardale, Cumbria’ and ‘Flooded tree, Derwentwater (Pp 53 and 59, ‘Land’ respectively).

The images have been made by one of Fay’s printers, photographer Peter Cattrell, and the captions include some interesting printing points. All but one of the prints are in black and white and to my mind were quite stunning.

A day conference event, including a preview screening of the film ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ (made by Charles Mapleston and Dr Libby Horner of Malachite Films Ltd), charting what turned out to be the final 5 years of Fay’s work and exhibiting, will take place on Saturday 11th March from 10.30 – 15.30 hours. Tickets are £15 (£10 unwaged) and should be booked at the nearby Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop (See details below). The bookshop is run by Diane Bailey and Geoff Young who incidentally also curated the whole exhibition.

Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop is a stones’ throw down the road from MOMA and is a dangerous place for anyone interested in fiction, poetry, the arts and photography. I had a long conversation with Geoff Young and came away with an original copy of Fay’s 1985 ‘Land’ volume which seems to be accepted as her most powerful work. You can buy most of her work at the bookshop. The small but packed shop is a delight. No coffee, no biscuits and no toilets – perfect.

With a long drive in the morning I had been determined to get to Machynlleth early, to grab a coffee and pull myself together before visiting MOMA – and was glad I had done. The gallery itself and the welcome from the staff there were both exemplary. For those interested I had breakfast and lunch in the Quarry Café – an independent vegetarian establishment in the main street, that is excellent.

It is difficult to think of any photographer of landscapes who would not come away wiser from this exhibition – so my advice is to grab it while you can – less than a month to go!


The Tabernacle,
Penrallt Street,
Wales SY20 8AJ.
Tel – 01654 703355
Email: info@moma. machynlleth.org.uk

Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop

Diane Bailey and Geoff Young,
Heol Pen’Rallt,
Wales SY20 8AJ.
Tel:01654 700559
Email: penralltbooks@gmail.com


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