Capitalism in the 21st Century #1 – TATA Steel

During my last year at university, us students were given an assignment to produce a body of work and 3,000 words on Capitalism in the 21st Century. Apart from being a challenging task, there were only three weeks to turn-in the work.

There’s no escaping the imposing edifice of the TATA Steelworks in Port Talbot as you travel along the M4. The chimneys emit smoke into the atmosphere, which at times appear to be creating the dark rain clouds overhead and at night the site appears to be a giant dragon zoo, discharging flames and smoke into the night sky.

The selection of TATA Steel was an easy choice for my submission for ‘Capitalism in the 21st Century’ as I wanted to explore photographically how the steelworks impact on the local environment.

I travelled down to the lovely Aberavon beach to get a view of the works to create some establishing shots and determine a plan of action.

I was very fortunate to meet a fellow photographer who is an ex-employee of TATA Steel who suggested he could take me on a tour of the town of Port Talbot and the TATA Steel site. What followed was an amazing whistle-stop tour of Port Talbot and access to the railway marshalling yard of TATA Steel.

I was able to cross the main railway line and access, at very close quarters, the railway trucks rumbling into the steelworks. My guide also proposed that I should return on a subsequent visit to experience some of what he suggested were toxic waste ponds.

In that action-packed day, I was able to capture a sense of the size of the TATA site and a promise of an in-depth exposé of the machinations of the plant.

I had great hopes for my choice of subject and prepared a selection of photographs to show my tutor. But unfortunately, my professor was not convinced on my choice of subject and suggested that I consider an alternate line of enquiry. I was obviously disappointed, but I had to go back to the drawing board and start again to find another subject.

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