Francesca Odell

Portrait of Francesca Odell

Francesca Odell’s documentary focus was directed towards three communities – in Clydach Vale, the Gurnos Estate, Merthyr and Gilfach Goch – that could be seen to channel the mainstream ethos of The Valleys’ experience. Gilfach is literally a dead end: an isolated township sandwiched between the Rhondda and Garw valleys where Odell shot pictures of her redoubtable family in their new ‘Garden Village’ setting. On the Gurnos estate, perched high above the Heads of the Valleys Road, she photographed another would be brave new world on the doorstep of what was once the world’s iron making capital. The children, Odell photographed hanging about on the streets of Clydach Vale do not look at the camera: their gaze is downwards, blank or fiercely insolent in disinterest, reflective of a insidious form of working class entrapment. Together, this portrait of three distinct but complimentary environments encapsulates the gritty determination, fierce pride and communal loyalty of its citizens while acknowledging that the future for the youth of the valleys remains, at best, uncertain and at worst, without much prospect of long term fulfilment.


Francesca Odell - The Valleys Project, 1986

Michael, Matthew, Lisa and Kimberley, playing upstairs at home – Gurnos Estate, Merthyr – December 1985 © Francesca Odell

Gail is a national badminton champion – she trains regularly with her dad on the running track just below her home – September 1985 © Francesca Odell

On the waltzers down in Porthcawl – good for a holiday or just a day out. Last day of the season, and all the rides are half-price – September 1985 © Francesca Odell

Mark makes sure that the T.V. Can work properly before he starts helping decorate the new house. © Francesca Odell

Young girls watch the ballroom dancers. Hawthorn Leisure Centre – July 1985 © Francesca Odell

No Title © Francesca Odell

Christmas Morning – Gurnos Estate, Merthyr – December 1985 © Francesca Odell

No Title © Francesca Odell

Michelle, Mark’s sister, and her baby Rachael, three days old – East Glamorgan Hospital – October 1985 © Francesca Odell

After The Night Feed. Rhydian, Michelle And Rachael – Garden Village, Gilfach Goch – December 1985 © Francesca Odell

Kerian plays the space invaders in the fish and chip shop. Trealaw – November 1985 © Francesca Odell

Lisa’s first steps. Gurnos Estate, Merthyr, January, 1986 © Francesca Odell