'Extraordinary' 100-year-old photos of Cardiff Docks families brought to life

A striking collection of photos depicting people from Cardiff's Docks community in the early 20th Century have been brought to life in a new project.

The images, purchased by the Glamorgan Archives in the 1970s, have inspired short audio dramas that imagine the lives of the people depicted.

Taken by photographer Fred Petersen between 1910 and 1920, they form part of a multimedia gallery at the site.

The project takes its title from the dedication on one of the photos - 'From May to Etta with Love'.

The photos have been in the Glamorgan Archives' possession since the 1970s, but few details are known about the subjects Credit: Fred Petersen/Glamorgan Archives

Rhian Diggins, Senior Archivist at the Glamorgan Archives, says the photos are a fascinating document of the rich diversity of Tiger Bay.

Since 2020, the Archives have appealed to the wider public for help identifying the people in the photos.

"The way these photographs have been taken - yes - people are quite stiff and formal and posing for the photographs. But there's something in people's faces.

"You see the real them. And you could walk down any street in Cardiff today and see these people."

Some of the photos depict local families of mixed-heritage Credit: Fred Petersen/Glamorgan Archives

Audio drama producers Applied Stories commissioned two professional writers with Butetown links to imagine scenes from the times the photographs were taken."I was born about 100 yards away from Fred Peterson's studio in Tiger Bay and coming on board with a project like this is so fantastic to be able to give that sort of authenticity" says actor and writer Danielle Fahiya.

"These photos are really extraordinary because they capture a moment in time that we don't really see depicted from that era"

"You see predominantly black and mixed race families portrayed in a very positive light, dressed up in their best garments"

"It really exciting to be able to have an opportunity to dramatise their lives"

Applied Stories' Fin Kennedy with writers Kyle Lima and Danielle Fahiya

"We had a lot of help from the lovely people at the Archives who would give us historical facts of who was working in the Docks at the time, what numbers were coming in and out from the merchant sailor point of view" adds Kyle Lima.

For Kyle, the project is also deeply personal.

"My family on my father's side were Cape Verdean and we came through Tiger Bay. My grandfather was a merchant seaman and he met my grandmother here through Tiger Bay."

"It just speaks to how far reaching the contribution of the black presence in Cardiff Bay really was at that time, and how it's spread across Wales."

QR codes embedded on the canvas direct visitors to the audio recordings.

The short plays feature a mix of professional actors and local families, with new portraits of the contributors complementing the original photos in the gallery.

Applied Stories' Artistic Director Fin Kennedy describes the installation as a "talking portrait gallery".

"I'd set them the challenge to choose three pictures each out of this collection of 72 and they spent a long time walking around that table" he says.

"The three that they've chosen are really beautiful and special and the five minute audio dramas that accompany them are heartbreaking and heartwarming in all kinds of ways."

"Here, you're actually able to use the tools of narrative drama, because these are all stories inspired by real people".