Photographs of the Aftermath: 

The disaster in Aberfan, Wales  taken October 30th through December 25th, 1966

On the 21st of October 1966, 144 people, 116 of them children, were killed when a man-made mountain of coal waste slid onto the village of Aberfan in South Wales.   The elementary school building was the first structure in its path and the school was demolished by a thousand tons of black mud.

Over one hundred images from the collection of photographs taken in Aberfan in November and December of 1966 will go on display in the main exhibit hall of The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, Wales on April 9th and continuing through June 18th.  Admission is free. 

 

           

Gwales Review
Mae adolygiad Cymraeg yn dilyn / A Welsh review follows

The image which immediately draws our attention on the cover of this book is the face of a young boy standing behind large, ugly sacks of coal. He makes us feel uncomfortable as he stares straight into the eye of the camera and into the eyes of every one of us as we pick up the book. That is the power of the black-and-white photograph – a power which makes the small red decoration above the cover image appear so useless and insignificant.

This volume comprises a selection of photographs by the American photographer I.C. Rapport. Becoming a father for the first time in 1966, he was touched by the reports on the Aberfan disaster broadcast on television in America. He was successful in gaining a commission from Life magazine to report the way in which the community of Aberfan was starting to cope with its loss. He arrived at the village just as most of the reporters and photographers were leaving, and he stayed there for two months to record the vulnerable lives of members of the community in their grief.

The sad and beautiful images linger in one’s mind, especially those showing the loneliness of the children. The rain, and the heavy, dark clouds regularly give a melancholy feel to the images – I can almost feel the all-enveloping dampness whilst turning its pages. There are some unpretentious photos conveying the disaster, and noting the first faltering steps taken to face the future. One of the most striking images is that of the first baby to be born after the disaster, safe in the mother’s arms, whilst in the background the coal tips look down in a threatening manner.

As a background to the photographs there is an analytical essay by Jenny Williams. There is also a foreword by the photographer, bearing witness to the depth of his convictions and confirming his talent to create oral pictures – but the power of the photographs themselves are the main strength of the book. It was beautifully designed and printed by Dinefwr Press. This title deserves a prominent position on our bookshelves – so that we shall not forget.

Marian Delyth

 

 

The book, Aberfan - The Days After, by I.C. Rapoport with an Afterword by Professor Jeni Williams, containing all the photographs in the National Library collection was published by Parthian Books of Cardigan, Wales - April 2005

HARD  COVER:  (approx)   $55.00 (PLUS SHIPPING)

SOFT  COVER:    (approx)   $30.00 (PLUS SHIPPING)

AVAILABLE THROUGH AMAZON.COM

 

 

PART OF THE COLLECTION

 

A.
ŠI.C.Rapoport

 LIFE Magazine headline: "Sea of Sludge upon Green Aberfan"

 

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B. 
ŠI.C.Rapoport

     Where once the school stood, a small child stares at the void and the remaining "tips"

 

 

C.
ŠI.C.Rapoport

 Coal and children.  That's what it boiled down to.

 

 

  D. 
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Old minor stares out the window of the Macintosh Pub at what was the schoolhouse.  Blaming himself and others, he feels he dug  the slag and heaped it upon the hills above his grandchildren

Prices of These Photographs

 

 1.   
ŠI.C.Rapoport

               A father and mother visit the grave of their child three weeks after the disaster.

 

 

2.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Moy Road.  The street where the elementary school stood, back behind the white van, and under the black hulking coal tip in the background.

 

 

3. 
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Thirty-five years have past.  The boy's name now escapes me.  His brother was killed in the schoolhouse.   He told me he wondered why he had survived.  God's will, I said.  Make the best of the life you were given.  Where is he now?

 

 

  4.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

His name was David.  His father was Llew the Milk.  They lived on a dairy farm a half mile out of Aberfan on the road to Merthyr on the side of the village closest to the schoolhouse.  Llew Milk raced there when he heard the terrible news and began digging with the miners and road workers and other volunteers.  And as each child's tiny corpse was found they were handed, man to man to woman to man, in a morbid chain of grief.   Llew Milk suddenly found himself holding the lifeless body of his own son in his arms.  He broke from the line carrying his boy to the road where the bodies were lined up when a nurse grabbed him, and said those unforgettable words: "This boy's alive."

 

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4A.
 ŠI.C.Rapoport

David  in his pasture staring up at the tips.

 

 

4B.
 ŠI.C.Rapoport

        David Davies - survivor

 

4C.
 ŠI.C.Rapoport

David's sister 

 5.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

I believe her name was Cheryl.  Her brother was killed in the disaster.  The trauma of the events left her speechless and she wouldn't leave her father's side.  Not for a minute.  

 

 

5A.
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Milkman delivers early one morning three weeks after the disaster.  In the background is the devastation of the elementary school and the dozen private homes

 

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6.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

The gravedigger.  He'd spent a lifetime burying the sick and the elderly but never in his dreams could he have imagined this.  One hundred and forty-four souls laid to rest.  Seeing the broken families standing helplessly over the mass graves, trying to tell their little ones they were sorry that they could not save them.

 

 

7.
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Beneath the looming coal tips a mother visits her child.

 

 8. 
ŠI.C.Rapoport

A survivor visits the cemetery

 

 

 9.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

In the Macintosh Pub, hardly one block from the schoolhouse, a man who has lost everything is comforted by his friend.

 

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 10. 
ŠI.C.Rapoport

 

The mine had shut down for several days after the tragedy but soon the Coal Board brought the men back to work.  Grieving or not, coal had to be mined and slurry had to be taken out and "tipped".  The elevator brings the miners to the surface after a days work one mile below the surface of Aberfan.  

 

 11.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

 

12.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

        Young Miner, after showering.  Impossible to clean the coal dust from his eyes.

 

13.
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Three men survey the fallen tip.

 

 

14.  


ŠI.C.Rapoport

 

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15.       
ŠI.C.Rapoport

 

 

15A.   
ŠI.C.Rapoport

 

15B.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Above the cemetery.

 

16. 
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Everyday since the tragedy this mother waits at her door for her son to come home from school.

 

  17.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Above the cemetery and the village, a boy lies down and covers his head in grief.

 

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17A.
ŠI.C.Rapoport

 

18. 
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Three mothers leave the gravesite and walk back to the village of Aberfan.

 

 18A.
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Man who lost everything: his wife, his child, and his home.  Nothing was left.

 

18B.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

The first bride in Aberfan after the disaster

 

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  19.  
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Young lovers at the Macintosh.  The trauma of the events of the past month has them clinging to each other.

 

19A.   
ŠI.C.Rapoport

              Laughter returns to Aberfan.  As painful as it is, life must go on.

 

 20.
ŠI.C.Rapoport

Survivors of the schoolhouse tragedy.

 

21. 

ŠI.C.Rapoport

First baby born in Aberfan after the disaster.   Seen through the sheer curtains, other coal tips still threaten the town. 

 

 

 

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