July 25, 2011 § 4 Comments
“It’s about time Cardiff had a museum about the City. About time” says Dan, and I have to agree. In fact, I’ve heard a lot of people say that recently. But, although the new Cardiff Story Museum is good, what most people have actually been talking about is what’s been going on upstairs, above the museum. An exhibition called BigLittleCity, which is the brain child of Dan Green (plus his best mate Marc Heatley).
Dan is a freelance photographer, born and bred in Cardiff. Three years ago he started a photography project called Cardiff:Characters, which was all about capturing the unsung heroes of Cardiff – those familiar faces you see everyday. “After travelling in America for a bit I came back to Cardiff with a burning desire to do something. I went into The Old Library, which is a stunning, stunning building in the heart of the city that has never been properly utilised and said to the manager ‘I want to do a photography project about the people of Cardiff and exhibit it here’. He said ‘ok, you’ve got three months’ and I shat myself”. The project culminated in Dan’s first ever exhibition. “It was so exciting. The opening night was bootin’. I manned the exhibition for six weeks. Didn’t get paid for any of it but I was convinced that it would eventually pay off. There was a certain naivety to it, but a good naivety”.
Cardiff:Characters was a big success and gained Dan a lot of coverage and plaudits, but it was one piece of constructive criticism that had the biggest impact on him. “Someone came in and said ‘well done for doing this, but it doesn’t sum up my Cardiff. This is just your perspective’. That comment lingered for a long time until I eventually thought ‘ok, let’s do an exhibition where we put the call out and get different people’s perspective of the same thing”. This idea transformed into BigLittleCity, an interactive art exhibition celebrating Cardiff, which ran for three months and ended with a big, creative bang on Friday 22 July.
The exhibition took almost two years to develop and was done for pretty much nothing. “We managed to raise £4k from donations but in the grand scheme of things that is nothing. I am more and more into the red with everything I’m doing but I have always, always wanted to do something like this and all the hard times pay off when there are hundreds of people here and the place is thumping. That feels awesome.”
Dan clearly loves his City and wants to celebrate it. “I was very conscious that I wanted work that reflected on the past as well as the future, as well as different viewpoints and backgrounds. We wanted to show the true Cardiff”. I would say that Dan has achieved his aims. I bet there are a lot of artists and creative types out there who are very grateful to Dan for giving them such a great platform to showcase their work. “I have bent over backwards to get the right things in here. There are certain people that I had to work with and show a new audience their work. Charles Byrd and Mary Traynor are two good examples. These are two people in their late eighties, early nineties who are incredible artists but their work isn’t being promoted. Charles Byrd’s work has been in a basement, covered in bubble wrap for the past six years. I paid my own money for the insurance to get them here. I’m no connoisseur of art, but his work is class. Proper impact, proper heritage.”
The passion with which Dan speaks about all the work on show is really powerful, it’s almost like a mother talking about her children. “I am so much less precious about my own work now that I’ve done this. I really admire other people’s work”.
Dan’s work is pretty good too. His style of photography is incredibly vibrant and engaging and has a distinctive personality (much like himself). “I specialise in photographing people and communities in their natural environment. A strong connection to my subject is vital and I relish the opportunity to get involved in the projects I document”. This need to immerse himself in the subject has led Dan to all sorts of places, from Glastonbury to Ghana, and he is now The Safe Foundation’s resident photographer.
But now that BigLittleCity is over, what’s next? “I am definitely going to pursue my photography and I want to visit the rest of the Safe Foundation countries; that has to be done. But having brought BLC this far it would be amazing to take it elsewhere and roll it out in other cities around the UK. I’m very proud of what we’ve done. We’ve been averaging 100 people a day, which is unheard of for this kind of thing, so it could definitely work elsewhere. If you work with the right people and get the right backing it can be a big success”.
Whatever happens next and wherever the BigLittleCity adventure may go, we should be extremely proud that it was here, in Cardiff, that it all started. Nice one Dan.
Dan Green is a freelance photographer based in Cardiff, South Wales. He specialises in photographing people and communities in their natural environment. If you’re interested in hiring him visit his website