On bright winter afternoons I sometimes go down to Aberystyth to photograph the pre-roost starling displays above the Pier. There’s usually a couple of photographers there and quite often a gathering of other spectators, so it can be nice to have a chat too. Yesterday was a case in point but with a very different flavour.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon you’d expect quite a crowd but even the wooden jetty was packed with people. From the prom there was no sign at all that the birds were going into the tight flocks which provide the most memorable images. They were in small, untidy groupings which flew in a very disorganised fashion under the pier to roost . I squeezed past the small gaggle of photographers who mocked me for my poor timing, then threaded my way down towards the end of the jetty through the crowd. I met a young friend there and said hello. “Oh, you’re here with your fancy camera” was her light-hearted reply. But there was a tremor in her voice as she said it.
There were candles in jars on the tops of the jetty supports but they hadn’t really registered. Then she told me : “We’re here in memory of a friend who has just died.” Gulp. I eventually plucked up the courage to ask a little more. He was a local photographer who’d gone missing a few days previously but whose body had been found that morning by the railway track. “His name was Pinky Marvin….. he loved coming down here to photograph the starlings….he would have loved this”. My pre-occupation with the disorganised nature of the starling flock suddenly seemed quite improper. “He’s got an exhibition of his starling photos in the The Treehouse [a cafe in the town] at the moment.”
It later turned out that I was probably the only person there who knew nothing about the man or his death. Being a photographer can be a solitary way of life – and sometimes a dispiriting one – but he had been getting work locally and having his photographs exhibited. Lack of success could surely not have been the only reason for him to take his own life – if, indeed, that is what happened.
To follow Tales from Wild Wales, please scroll right to the bottom and click the Follow button.