Capturing an ancient craft

A photography student has captured the work of craftsmen keeping an age-old tradition alive.

Thursday, 7th March 2013, 9:00 am
REFLECTIVE MOOD Andy Snaith has snapped members of the West Yorkshire Dry Stone Walling Association. Bill Wilson is pictured.

Andy Snaith snapped members of the West Yorkshire Dry Stone Walling Association to document and explore a practice which stretches back three-and-a-half-thousand years.

His series of images, entitled Dry Stone Wallers, were taken for his photography degree at Batley School of Art.

Mr Snaith, who lives in St Pauls Road, Mirfield, said: “I’ve always been into countryside crafts – it fascinates me. It’s still something you see a lot of but never really think about how it got there and why it was built.”

The 48-year-old’s interest in dry stone walling was sparked when he saw members of the West Yorkshire branch building a sample wall at the Mirfield Show.

“As a craft, the way it is done and the tools used to do it have changed very little in 1000 years,” he said. “With the pace the modern world moves at now, it’s very unique – just to get down on your knees with a hammer in your hand and build a wall.”

Students at the college were told to pick a subject they were passionate about and Mr Snaith, a professional photographer, has tried his hand at the ancient craft.

“I can really understand the attraction. It’s very therapeutic – a bit like building a giant jigsaw,” he said.

Dry stone walls are more typical in the north of England where large quantities of rock and stone are found above the soil, and especially where trees and hedges do not grow easily because of the climate, elevation, strong winds or thin soils.

“The series of images document the working lives of dry stone wallers, a unique group of people maintaining the legacy of a craft with its roots in the Neolithic era,” said Mr Snaith.

He captured his subjects, who are paid professionals, taking a quick break from their work. “People have a real connection with the wall, a bit like sculpture,” he added. “People get very involved with this thing they are building. It can be very creative.”