Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jurgen Schadeberg at Hensol

This photograph shows patients at Hensol Castle hospital in the Vale of Glamorgan. The building, a castellated mansion in the gothic style, was converted into a hospital for "mental defectives" in 1930. The original colony of 100 male patients consisted of people who suffered with Downs Syndrome, Hydrocephalus and what today would be considered learning difficulties. Villas and outbuildings were added to the complex in the 1930s to accommodate women and children. By the 1950s the patient population at Hensol had reached over 800. As attitudes to mental health began to change in the 1960s more emphasis was put on community-based treatments and the learning of new skills. Over time the population began to decline as patients were reintegrated into the wider community. In 2004 Hensol Castle hospital was closed. Today it is a health resort and conference centre and, inevitably, has been used as a location in the shooting of Doctor Who.

The picture above was taken by esteemed German snapper Jurgen Schadeberg in 1967. Schadeberg is probably best-known today for his work on Drum magazine in South Africa during the '50s and '60s. In fact, for his documentation of the apartheid struggles he has been dubbed: 'The Father of South African Photography'. When he left that country in 1964 Schadeberg freelanced in Europe and the US for various prestigious magazines. It must have been during this period that he turned up at Hensol, though I've no idea what his assignment actually was, or whether the pictures were ever published. Schadeberg's photographic career continues to flourish. His 1994 shot of Nelson Mandela peering through the bars of his former Robben Island prison cell was voted one of the 50 most memorable images of the twentieth century. These days, together with his wife Claudia, he also makes documentary films.

*Photograph ©Jurgen Schadeberg/Getty Images.