Featured post

Contemporary Narratives - Photography: A Short Guide to History, Theory, and Practice: Online Course Starting April 27th 2022

  Sign up to my new series of talks on Contemporary Narratives - Photography: A Short Guide to History, Theory, and Practice .  Starts on Ap...

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Molly Kempster and the Marginalisation of Women in Agriculture

all pictures by Molly Kempster

So I gave my last lecture in Room H8c in Caerleon a couple of days ago and yesterday I gave my last tutorials to third years there before the world's oldest Documentary Photography Course completes its move to Cardiff.  And so, as we head towards the end of year shows, it gets me a little bit sentimental.

After giving fifty odd lectures to these third years in the previous two years, the same number of seminars and numerous tutorials, it is a pleasure to see them write about their work and talk about their work and make their work (which I rarely get to see because I teach history and theory) in a way that goes beyond the content they have been given.

It's the idea that they have gone from having images, theories, ideas and histories put into their world to becoming people who are creating their own worlds. So hearing them talk is like receiving something back from their world - like getting a lecture, a seminar, a tutorial in return, somethng that isn't just theoretical in a distant way or image-based in a cold way, but something that connects back to the real world and examines how it has been shaped and understood over the years.

I've heard about the history of soil and how it has been mapped and shaped by the politics of land use, I've heard about Greek mythology and a photographer's personal journey to the depths of hell, about somebody who has learnt to live on the land, to fish and hunt, about the link between the heart and the land, about the body and ritual, and then some more.

In keeping with this, the next few posts will feature a series of works that are just coming to fruition for the end of year show. All these are from Documentary Photography course at USW and you can follow them at




First up is Molly Kempster. 'Blue Bib and Braces' portrays women working in agriculture in the UK. What I find most fascinating about the project, which is a straightforward documentary, is the way it links in to the history of women in agriculture, and the way they have been marginalised and written out of visual and social history since the dawn of the British agrarian revolution. Nothing happens by accident and visual representation counts. This is what Molly says about the project (which is still ongoing).

‘Blue Bib and Braces’ is a photographic project that represents a number of extraordinary women from the south of England, who continue to defy the gender stereotype and myth that surrounds the farming industry by actively participating in job roles within agriculture, alike those of men. The existence of these women is presented through a series of uniform portraits in order to evoke the feeling of hardship and emotion that accompanies these job titles. Women have, and will continue to be the ‘backbone’ of the agrarian industry.

(and if you want to study on the Documentary Photography course, remember it's called  Documentary Photography, not anything else. There's a reason I say this. You'd be surprised!)


Paul Reas said...

Very proud of our graduating students. Thank you Colin for the promotion and all of your input in their three year Doc Phot journey.

colin pantall said...

Thank you Paul and for yours, and David's and Lisa's input. It's been really touching to hear and see something of the work being made these last few weeks - really looking forward to the final show.