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Striking Portraits of the Lost Young Men of South Wales

Daragh Soden spent the months ahead of the EU referendum hanging out with Newport's young men.

by Daragh Soden
28 August 2016, 11:05pm

The town of Newport, South Wales was once a thriving centre of commerce where coal – mined in the valleys to the north – would arrive and be either shipped around the world or fuel the furnaces of the flourishing steelworks that were the heart of towns like Newport, Swansea, Port Talbot and Cardiff.

However, at a time when Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's radical policies were changing the social and economic landscape of the United Kingdom, the coal and steel industries faced rapid decline, and a huge number of skilled jobs were lost in the regions around South Wales.

These areas have never fully recovered from the devastation of the closure of mines and steelworks. Unemployment rates remain high and typical job descriptions have changed from manual labour and production to retail and customer service. As a result, thousands of men face not only a severe lack of job prospects for the future but also a conflict of identity.

It seems that, today, the "masculine" role in post-industrial Britain is virtually indefinable. What is apparent, however, is a sense of boredom and a lack of purpose among men, in and out of work, in towns like Newport. This sense of discontent is most evident in the results of the recent EU referendum, when 56 percent of Newport voted in favour of Brexit, despite the EU sending millions of pounds in support to Welsh development fund every year.

Below are a series of photos I took of men in Newport, in the weeks and months before the EU referendum.

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