Cardiff Before Cardiff by Jon Pountney, Keith S Robertson and Alun Gibbard

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A new book published by Y Lolfa shows Cardiff in a time before it is recognisable to most of us who live here today. Cardiff Before Cardiff is the result of a lot of hard work but, more importantly, the result of a generous amount of serendipity.

While cleaning out and renovating Warwick Hall in order to create Cardiff Music Studios back in 2011, Jon Pountney, a local photographer, found a small archive of pictures of Cardiff in the 1970s and 1980s. These photographs were unlabelled and had no attribution so Pountney set about looking for the photographer by posting them to a blog.

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“A couple of these pictures were stamped ‘Keith S Robertson,’ but that was all,” Pountney says. “So I created a new blog. [The photos] were seen by a journalist, who subsequently put a number of the prints in a newspaper. The response was immense and resulted in me being able to reunite Keith with his photographs once more.”

After the photographs had found their rightful owner, Pountney set about creating a response to Robertson’s work by taking pictures of his own view of Cardiff.

It’s a mixture of the two Cardiffs which find themselves in the new book from publishers Y Lolfa. 

Pountney’s own work is seamlessly mixed up into the existing work creating a continuity between two entirely different cities that is quite disarming. Seeing old and new side by side creates the feeling that we may not have progressed as much as we think we have.

2Enlightening photography
1A familiar face

Another aspect that is particularly interesting about this work is that in Robertson’s photographs of the city, the faces and smiles of people who were living in Cardiff up to four decades ago are trapped.

It is not only the photographs but the smiles of the subjects too which are calling out to be reunited with their owners.

Cardiff Before Cardiff, £12.95, Y Lolfa