Mabanogi Top Trumps

I bought this pack of top trumps during my visit to St Fagans – the museum of Welsh culture. The cards include illustrations of the Mabinogion characters. The female characters are all conventionally very attractive their descriptions are positive, using words like ‘brave’ and ‘headstrong’ rather than commenting on their appearances. What is interesting the character Gronw Pebr is described as ‘golygus’ which translates to handsome.

These card were created by Welsh cartoonist Huw Aaron. They instantly caught my eye as I created tarot cards last semester. It is inspiring to see an artist create something so interactive for children to learn and enjoy the stories of the Mabinogi that doesn’t force negative attitudes on the female characters.


I’ve decided to kickstart my project by creating some self portraits inspired by Nessa from Gavin and Stacey. My intention is to glamorise the character by bringing her up to date with a new image. The intention is to empower the character which is often mocked.


This year I want to focus on Welsh icons as well as mythological characters – my work is meant to connect with young people which is why pop culture is so important to my work. This means people who are unaware of the mythology can appreciate Welsh culture.

Here are some icons I am considering shooting:

  • Nessa
  • Tom Jones
  • Sali Mali
  • Jac y jwc
  • Aron Ramsey
  • Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte Church
  • Katherine Jenkins
  • The Valleys
  • Josie from fresh meat
  • Huw Fash
  • Owain Glyndwr
  • Llywelyn ein llyw olaf
  • Huw Edwards
  • Gareth Bale
  • Couple off gogglebox

Llyn Y Fan Fach

Llyn Y Fan Fach is a famous Welsh lake. Here is where the ‘Lady of the Lake’ comes from. The story goes that a young farmer fell in love with her. He was allowed to marry her but if he struck her 3 times she was to return to the lake. The lady was late to a christening, cried at a wedding and laughed at a funeral – at these three occasions her husband lightly struck her which meant she returned to the lake. During summer I visited the lake:


4th Year Study Plan




This year I intend on extending the work I did last year (see above) to a higher quality. I will continue to focus on modernising Welsh mythological characters as it is an important subject that needs to be celebrated amongst young people. This year I would like to branch out to work on shooting male characters and Welsh pop culture icons too such as Tom Jones and Nessa from Gavin and Stacey.  

My vision at this moment in time is to create my own magazine full of imagery celebrating Welsh culture, it will also include short articles explaining the stories of the characters and icons. My work is very vibrant and colourful – I would like to continue this style of work however my work last year was repetitive. This time I genuinely want to create a sense of identity for the characters I will be shooting. I want every shoot to be very different and a bit more experimental with set, props, and outfits. I have reached out to the Edinburgh University Welsh society in hope to find people that would be interested in taking part in this project.  

I have been looking at the ‘monster theory’ which questions why are monsters in mythology always female characters. I want to empower women within Welsh mythology by celebrating their strength, independence and correct the way I believe they have been misunderstood over the years. I am also hoping to ask viewers through my imagery to see a different side to the ‘heroic’ male characters we worship.  

I must think carefully about the clothing used in these shoots and how to capture them in the best way possible as I would love to pursue a career as a fashion photographer. Fashion is instrumental in expressing one’s sense of self – I found that last semester I learned a lot about myself through styling these characters, as if every character revealed an aspect of my own personality. I was able to truly connect with my subjects to create images that were uniquely mine. Although that was special to me, this year I believe will benefit from collaborating with stylists and makeup artists who can work with me to create something truly outrageous. Nevertheless, if I am unable to find people who would want to collaborate, I am confident knowing I can do this by myself. I am concerned putting my trust in other people to make my visions come true, however if I am openminded, together we could create something incredible.  

The purpose of my work has always been to try and engage young people with Welsh culture. Through using fashion and materialistic, visual things that would appeal to them it will help them identify with and understand the characters on a deeper level. It is important to me that I capture the characters as ‘real people’ in the 21st century as this will help people understand the importance of the mythological stories in a way that is not so far fetched.  


Shoot ideas – possible characters to recreate: 

  • Twm sion cati  
  • Llyn y fan fach (lady of the lake) 
  • Nessa (and Stacey?) 
  • Owain glyndwr 
  • Sali mali 
  • Santes dwywen  
  • Clychau cantre gwaelod  
  • Rhys a Meinir   


  • 1 group exhibition before week 5 
  • 3 shoots completed by November  
  • Trip to Wales for additional research and inspiration – roughly around week 8 – shoot can take place in Wales 
  • 5 shoots completed by December  
  • First draft of magazine by December  
  • Possibly hold a solo (or collaborative) exhibition by December 


Week 1 


Introduction week 

Research my subjects 

Week 2 


Group Tutorial (study plan) 

Plan Nessa self portraits

Week 3 


Lighting tutorial with technician 

Shoot Nessa self portraits – Friday 

Week 4 


Reflect on shoot and research Clychau Pentre Gwaelod – plan shoot 
Week 5 


CPG shoot 
Week 6 


Research pop culture aspect – plan Lady of the lake shoot 
Week 7 


Lady of the lakeshoot and plan visit to wales – meetings etc – Go to Manchester  
Week 8 


Visit Wales – shoot and research – meetings 


Week 9 


Research Twm Sion Cati 
Week 10 


Twm Sion Cati shoot 
Week 11 


Print & Mount Images – Create magazine 
Week 12 


Installing images and finish magazine