Then There Was Us

Mods of Swansea with Matthew Eynon

2020-07-12 – Interview

Community, Culture, Subculture

South Wales based photographer, Matthew Eynon, focuses his work towards street and documentary photography through the forms of society and subculture. We did a short interview with Matthew about his project, Swansea Mods.

“Within Swansea there is an established and growing mod scene, which has strong links to ska and skinhead culture. It’s argued that the definition of mod can be difficult to pin down, because “throughout the subculture’s original era, it was prone to continuous reinvention. The word mod was an umbrella term that covered several distinct sub-scenes and is difficult to define because the subculture started out as a ‘mysterious semi-secret world’, which the Who’s manager summarised as “clean living under difficult circumstances.

The Swansea Mods are a vibrant, stylish and friendly bunch of women and men from all backgrounds. The social scene involves meets, ride-outs, gigs and weekenders – it feels like I’ve only dipped my toe in so far and am looking forward to continuing the series in the future.”

JT: So firstly, you work as a geologist. Is this something you always wanted to pursue? 

ME: Geology was pretty much the only subject I enjoyed in comprehensive school, mainly due to a good teacher and classmates. It dawned on me during my second year in university that there could be a career in it and I’ve been very lucky to have been working as an Engineering Geologist for more than 15 years. 

I’m a partner in an engineering consultancy in Cardiff called Earth Science Partnership and find that photography engages a creative side of my brain that I don’t get to use every day. 

JT: You stated in a previous interview that photography is a hobby. Do you think your day to day job inspires your practice as a photographer? 

ME: My job has definitely helped along the way – geology is an observational science and accurate recording is a core skill. Photography became more serious for me once our first child was born and I realised that candid photos always looked better to me than posed ones. Most of my friends and family would confirm that i’ve always been ‘gadgety’ and I came to understand the principles of exposure pretty quickly. 

The Swansea Mods are a vibrant, stylish and friendly bunch of women and men from all backgrounds. The social scene involves meets, ride-outs, gigs and weekenders – it feels like I’ve only dipped my toe in so far and am looking forward to continuing the series in the future.”

JT: So firstly, you work as a geologist. Is this something you always wanted to pursue? 

ME: Geology was pretty much the only subject I enjoyed in comprehensive school, mainly due to a good teacher and classmates. It dawned on me during my second year in university that there could be a career in it and I’ve been very lucky to have been working as an Engineering Geologist for more than 15 years. 

I’m a partner in an engineering consultancy in Cardiff called Earth Science Partnership and find that photography engages a creative side of my brain that I don’t get to use every day. 

JT: You stated in a previous interview that photography is a hobby. Do you think your day to day job inspires your practice as a photographer? 

ME: My job has definitely helped along the way – geology is an observational science and accurate recording is a core skill. Photography became more serious for me once our first child was born and I realised that candid photos always looked better to me than posed ones. Most of my friends and family would confirm that i’ve always been ‘gadgety’ and I came to understand the principles of exposure pretty quickly. 

JT: So you actually started out documenting the streets. Did you feel you feel this boosted your confidence when asking people for a portrait in the street?

ME: Definitely! However, candid and close up street photography has always left me feeling a bit empty and like I’ve stolen something. Although it’s much harder to ask someone for their photograph, I find it much more rewarding. I do still like street photography and carry my rangefinder nearly everywhere, but think my approach is more David Hurn than Bruce Gilden these days if you get what I mean (not saying my photos are a patch on those guys though!).

JT: Has your Swansea Mods series inspired any more documentary style projects? If so, what’s next?

ME: The Swansea Mods definitely opened my eyes to ‘projects’ and I’ve had some great encouragement from the chaps at Ffoton Wales. 

I’ve been progressing a couple of other series’ since the mods – the first a project called ‘Reverse Osmosis’ documenting what I see as the influences of American culture in Wales and the second is a project on the surfers of Aberavon. I’ll add to these as time and circumstances allow (if anyone’s having a baby shower in Wales soon then let me know, ha!). 

Over the last week or so I have begun research into a larger project that may involve a bit of travel around Wales through the summer – this is as yet untitled and theoretical until I begin making some photographs later this week! 

Thank you for reading

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Matthew Eynon

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