Place names transcend their status as identifiers of geographical location;
they become inextricably associated with hundreds of years of history, of cultural
references, stereotypes, childhood memories, news items, myths, commercial products,
After the Welsh Quakers left their homeland towards the end
of the 17th century in search of religious and economic freedom, the new settlements
founded in the Americas were often named after the settlers' point of origin.
It was one familiar link in an otherwise strange new world, fostering a sense
of community among the displaced. This practice continued into the 20th century,
when Welsh miners crossed the Atlantic to develop the rich Pennsylvania coalfields.
Parallel Wales is the result of two weeks spent in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware in October 2005, visiting locations with Welsh namesakes. Many have, in the time since they were settled, become distinctly un-Welsh. Others have been abandoned altogether, simply becoming areas of wasteland.
I'm fascinated by visual incongruities. The images, although they may be familiar to us from TV and cinema, conflict with our normal associations of the place names. A re-evaluation must take place - a certain image is of Llangollen, or Brynmawr, but not the Llangollen or Brynmawr that we know. These are parallel places, places that we might normally have no particular feelings for, but become surreally linked with our personal world; we derive a sense of kinship through a shared label.
The photos and text are from the US. The map shows the location of the Welsh counterpart. The whole site is best viewed from Wales.
All images and text ©2005 Simon Proffitt