AN exhibition of stunning photographs of the slate quarries of North Wales has been launched in a Shrewsbury café.
The photographs show the quarries of Snowdonia in their striking grandeur and are destined for a six-month stay in the National Slate Museum in Llanberis.
They were all taken by café-owner Mel Tutton, from Wrexham.
Café Georgia, in the lower level of the town’s Pride Hill Shopping Centre, will be lined with Mel’s images.
Mel, 59, who lives in Pen y Bryn, Wrexham, turned to photography two years ago as a way of countering depression.
He enrolled on a course at Llandrillo College in Rhos on Sea, close to where he used to live, and has just graduated with a HND, and is now about to start a third year for a BA Honours degree in creative media from Bangor University.
Mel said: “I left school in Bristol at 15 practically illiterate and managed to get on a catering course which took me an extra year to do because I couldn’t read or write properly.
“So I’m really thrilled now that I could end up with a degree and having my photographs displayed in galleries – as well as in my café.”
Mel, who has two children and two grandchildren, moved to North Wales after working for a printing company, DRG, in Bristol, which expanded to a factory in Deeside.
He was a production manager there having earlier been a shop steward.
He said: “I left the company back in the 1990s and was looking to do something else when I was in Shrewsbury one day and thought it was such a busy place and found this empty unit in the Pride Hill Centre and decided to open a café – that was back in 1999.
“I named it after my granddaughter and the first person I took on was Cheryl Rogers, who is now managing it for me and who is absolutely brilliant.
“It’s an ideal place to display my photographs – at least until they go to the museum in a couple of month’s time.”
Mel chose the subject of the slate quarries for his portfolio because he loved their rugged grandeur and also because he was interested in the social side of the quarrying industry.
He said: “The strike by the Penrhyn quarry miners back in 1900 is still the longest in British history and the conditions they worked in were very difficult – life expectancy was only about 40 with people being maimed and crippled on a daily basis.
“I really like the photographs I take in the winter when the quarries are really bleak and then a shaft of sunlight just brings light into the picture.”
Mel would like to work as a photographic artist and he has done work for the NHS while he came to the attention of the museum because he was spending time there researching the quarrying industry.
His next portfolio, for his degree, will take him further afield, to Dungeness in Kent, where his father worked in the 1960s.
He said:“It’s another dramatic landscape, with a vast shingle beach, picturesque cottages, wide open spaces and a massive nuclear power station.”