Over a period of two years Roo Lewis photographed the Welsh town of Port Talbot which, according to actor Michael Sheen, has an ‘extremely high number of UFO sightings’. However, the resulting book Port Talbot UFO Investigation Club is not a study of UFO sightings but instead uses the phenomena as a starting point to explore the people, landscape and folklore of the town.…’this is the vehicle I use to tell positive stories of the weird and wonderful - of those who remind us what it is to be human. It’s about dreaming. It’s about being lost and found all at the same time
‘There is magic to this town - a romance in the history, the people, the rhythm, the folklore…. My investigation has been about Welsh power and the drive to succeed. The power of hope—we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Do the lights in the sky represent hope?’
The small industrial town of Port Talbot sits just off the M4 motorway in South Wales. The steelworks, once a roaring industry, dominate the rolling landscape. Those passing through used to stop and provide trade to the area but the advent of the motorway in the 1960s allowed them to bypass the town completely. Lewis’s grandfather, a proud Welshman, grew up in Pembrokeshire and so as a child Lewis would often pass by Port Talbot—nose pressed against the window staring at the space station-like structures of Blast Furnace 4 and 5 of the steelworks.
Port Talbot been labelled one of the most polluted in the UK and yet is nestled in and around areas of outstanding natural beauty. Richard Burton, Antony Hopkins and Michael Sheen all hail from Port Talbot along with music legends, scientists and sports professionals. Lewis wanted to discover what it was about this small town which produced so many icons and why aliens wanted to visit it so often.
‘Ufology becomes a faith in itself—a belief system we carve in the absence of knowing, or ability to ever really know, we tap into the innate fascination with mystery. The jump we make from truth to belief, is faith. This coupled with our limited capacity for truth makes a captivating subject—a hotbed of storytelling never to be ruined with facts.’
During the course of his project, Lewis put up posters around the town to track down those who have spotted UFOs, chartered a small plane to fly over the town, commissioned UFO models based on sightings and was a guest of many of the town’s residents. The photographs in the book range from portraits of Meyrick Sheen (father to Michael, who had a career as a Jack Nicholson lookalike), Captain Beany, and Miss Wales, to images of the town’s urban infrastructure and surrounding landscapes interrupted by man-made structures.
‘The town revolves around the steelworks like living room furniture pointing at the television set. But within a few minutes’ walk you can go from the top of a mountain over sand dunes to the longest beach in Wales. Every summer the sea glows a fluorescent blue hue from visiting plankton. All under the watchful eye of one of the largest integrated steelworks in the world. The human story is very much alive—it’s in the air, the hearts and literally carved into the landscape with twisted metal pointing skyward. If you care to look the other way you might see something amazing.’
Published September 2023
245 x 306 mm portrait
136 pages, 67 images