A CELEBRATION of work by documentary photographer Roger Tiley will be exhibited at the Big Pit Mining Museum from this month.

The installation images cover his extensive study of the coal mining communities in the South Wales valleys over the past four decades.

Mr Tiley, himself a Valleys native, first photographed the pit communities in the 1980s.

Thirty years on, he has revisited many of the miners and their families he originally photographer thirty years ago to make new portraits.

The results of his past and recent images were printed and placed in former mining landscapes in the present day.

The juxtaposition of his original black and white images is intended to merge into the post-industrial terrain, once the centre of the community but in many cases now being reclaimed by nature.

Mr Tiley said: “I began taking photos of pits while I was in my early twenties. My uncle Bill worked at Bedwas colliery and I photographed him at home in Cwmfelinfach as he returned from his night shift underground. His image inspired me to gain permission from the NCB to visit pits and produce a photo project.”

During the miners’ strike of 1984/85, Mr Tiley photographed the dispute in great depth and his photographs were published around the world.

“I always wondered what had happened to all those lovely people I’d photographed so I decided to try and find some of them and make new portraits," he said.

“I thought the 1980s may have been a distant memory in the former mining communities, but that was not the case.

"The memories of many were as if the strike was yesterday. I was told on numerous occasions that the rift between striking miners and scabs was still as topical today as they were then; their feelings are just the same.

“When I came up with the idea of making new portraits, I remember driving to Maerdy in the Rhondda. Overlooking the village I recall being quite nervous as I thought nobody would be interested.

"I plucked the courage to ask in the charity shop. I showed my folio and the two ladies knew everyone in the pictures. They directed me to a lovely lady called Mary. She was a member of the Maerdy Women’s Support Group back during the strike. When I arrived at her home she answered the door and I was lost for words. She said, ‘Roger the photographer from Cross Keys.’ After all those years, she remembered me!

“All the people I subsequently met were fantastic. I was always given a warm welcome, offered cups of tea, sandwiches and cake and even an invite to my good friend Roy’s birthday party. He was a miner at Maerdy colliery."

“I wanted to take the photos back to the old colliery sites and rephotograph them. Armed with photocopied ‘tiles’ and wallpaper paste, I placed the images against the landscape and old industrial buildings. I remembered the days of the pit, the noise, the banter and the smell of oily heavy industry. Now the same environment lay silent but for the birds singing and the trees blowing in the wind.”

The results will be displayed at Big Pit, not in a clean gallery with crisp white walls but on external walls and corrugated walkways. “This is where the images belong,” Mr Tiley said.

To accompany the exhibition a virtual catalogue can be viewed and printed at www.rogertiley.com. Roger also invites the audience to interact with the photographs by taking a selfie next to his photos and sending them to rogertiley@yahoo.co.uk. A selection will be added to Mr Tiley’s website.