Pove the Great is an intimate story and far more personal than the books that were previously published by the photographer. Focused once again in and around Bridgend in Wales, this publication and project centres on a single individual called Steve Povey. Described as a troubled soul, the book reveals Steve’s affiliation with the woods, and how they represent a place of “temporary escape from the modern world”.
We talked to Dan Wood about his work and about the new book, that has already nearly sold out.
What interests you most in photography? What do you focus on?
My main interest is storytelling and real life. I’ve always been passionate about telling stories since a young age, and I thrive on being temporarily invited into people’s lives and do my very best not to exploit the privilege. I always make sure that I involve the people in the whole process, and then I pay them for their time and efforts with books and prints, which I think is important. I don’t have much money but to be able to give something back to people who have contributed and helped a project move forward is essential.
Could you tell me more about the genesis of the new series?
As someone who works primarily on long term, documentary projects that usually take years to finish, I recently felt like I needed a break from a project I was working on, and wanted to work on something shorter and more specifically about an individual: a character study. Then I crossed paths with Steve one day and that was the catalyst!
How did you get to know the protagonist and gain his trust?
I’ve known Steve for over 25 years, from the days when I was skateboarding and drumming in a couple of punk rock bands; but I had lost any real contact with him until recently. I was Facebook friends with him, however; so I used to see a bit of what he was getting up to. He would sporadically post videos/photos of himself sleeping out rough in the woods with his dog, and I was fascinated and wondered why he was doing it. One day, a few years later, I was out photographing for a commission when I saw Steve walking his dog. We got talking and I asked if I could take a portrait of him in the woods one day, and he agreed. Shortly after that, I decided to follow up on the arrangement and try to get in touch with him. I texted a friend to see if he had a contact number, which, to my surprise, he did! So, I started messaging Steve to arrange to meet up. He was very enthusiastic about it all, which made everything a lot easier; and because he already knew me, trust was never an issue.
Was it difficult to convince him to let you photograph him?
He was actually happy to be photographed, and really understood what I was doing right from the very beginning. The original plan was just a portrait shoot, but once we had met up for the first time it was obvious that we would be spending more time together in the woods, taking pictures and talking. I could see that Steve was really enjoying it, and I was too.
Did you learn something of meaning for yourself?
I learnt so much about life in general. Pove’s story deeply affected me for a while, and I struggled to understand how he stays so positive – even now when he has just been diagnosed with acute liver failure due to alcoholism. His mantra is: “Look after each other”, and, of course, he’s right – the world would surely be a better place if everyone did.
How many pictures were taken and how was the selection for the book made?
Approximately 250 pictures were taken over a 3-month period. The final selection for the book was quite difficult, and, after my initial selection of 47, I decided to call in my friend Ben, who is a great editor and sequencer of photography, to look at the work with fresh eyes and help edit it down to around 35 pictures. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received is to show your work to as many people as possible and learn to take criticism, even if it’s brutal at times. It will make you a better photographer and editor of your own work, which is crucial.
What role does Leica play in your photography?
I bought my first Leica in 2003, an M6 with 35mm Summilux. I didn’t like it initially, due to the rangefinder system that I wasn’t used to, and I fought with it for a while; but I was determined to unlock its potential and it soon became a part of me and I fell in love – for the following 10 years it was the only camera I used. Since then, I’ve had a succession of Leicas: 3 x M6s, an M4p, an M7, and finally an MP (film), which was what I shot this project on. It was the perfect tool for this type of series, where things were happening quicker than usual. I relied on the in-camera meter too, which was always so accurate! The Leica is my everyday camera and I take it everywhere – it sits on the shelf next to my chair always loaded and ready for action. I think that if I hadn’t discovered the Leica, I would have given up photography a very long time ago.
How important is the Welsh landscape for your photography?
Wales is very special, and is the UK’s best kept secret! It’s beautiful and has so much to offer: the people, the cities, the valleys, the beautiful coastline and the mountains, etc. Wales lives in the shadow of England, Scotland and Ireland and struggles to find a voice – especially now in these uncertain times of political unrest and Brexit. I do everything I can through my photography to give Wales a voice and show the world what it looks like. The landscape, but also Wales in general, continuously inspires me, and I want to explore every inch of it and uncover its secrets! Come to Wales, you will love it, I promise!
Will the series be exhibited?
There are no exhibition plans yet, but it’s definitely something I would want to exhibit sometime in the future. I feel that people need to hear Steve’s story, to sadly emphasize the fact that people like him do exist out there on the fringes of society.
Dan Wood. Born in Wales, UK, in 1974, I’m a self-taught documentary and portrait photographer, who discovered photography in the early nineties through the skateboard culture. My work has been featured in many publications, including The British Journal of Photography, CCQ Magazine, Ernest Journal and Jungle Magazine. I’ve participated in over 45 exhibitions, both nationally and internationally, including 6 solo shows. In 2018, I was one of the winners of the BJP, the Portrait of Britain prize.
Find out more about the photography of Dan Wood on his Website.
Pove the Great. Self-Published, limited edition of 100 signed and numbered copies.
Only a few copies left! The book comes with a signed, 8×6 inch print (280 GSM Lustre Paper)
190 x 235mm, Softcover, 58 Pages. On sale here.