AN image featuring a Radnorshire schoolgirl that encapsulates rural life in Powys is one of 99 that has been selected to illustrate the diversity of life in modern Britain.

Nine-year-old Moli Pugh, who lives on a farm high up in the hills of the Elan Valley with her family, features as one of the 99 images in this year’s Portrait of Britain awards, organised by the British Journal of Photography.

The annual award this year paints a picture of Britain grappling with a cost-of-living crisis, while making space for moments of community.

The winners – including Rhayader Primary School pupil Moli – have since been exhibited at a month-long digital exhibition in partnership with JCDecaux across high streets and bus shelters, in shopping malls and train stations across the UK, and will be featured in a hardback book featuring the 200 shortlisted images, published by Hoxton Mini Press.

Moli was pictured by Aberedw-based photographer Cicely Cooley, who visited the family farm at Bodtalog, located on the old Aberystwyth mountain road near Rhayader, during a an iconic time of year for all farmers – lambing.  

Cicely posted on the Historical Rhayader and Surrounding Area Facebook page in March 2022, asking if any families living in the Cambrian Mountains could help her with her university project. Despite being in the midst of the most chaotic period of the year for the family, Sian Pugh invited Cicely to Bodtalog.

County Times:  The real Moli, pictured next to a picture of her on a JCDecaux digital advertising board in Cardiff. The real Moli, pictured next to a picture of her on a JCDecaux digital advertising board in Cardiff. (Image: None)

“I offered to help and Cicely visited during lambing time,” said Sian, who farms the vast expanse of the rolling Cambrian Mountains and Elan Valley with her husband, Charles.

“Cicely took some photos and was kind enough to gift us a family photo, with all of us in (including Moli’s younger brother Huw).

“She also took a lovely photo of Moli in the quad bike trailer taking ewes and lambs out to the field. Fast forward to October and Cicely messaged asking permission to enter Moli's photo in the Portrait of Britain awards.

“Of course I said yes and here we are now; Cicely’s image of Moli has been selected as one of the winning images. The winning images will be shown as part of a national photography gallery and have been published in volume five of the Portrait of Britain book.

“We received our copy in January and have now told Moli who as you can imagine is totally made up. We’re eternally grateful to Cicely.”

Moli has since taken a trip to Cardiff, where mum took a real picture of her next to the digital version, with Sian adding: “We took Moli to our capital to see her portrait advertised on the JCDecaux advertising boards as one of the winners.

“Not only is her portrait in Cardiff but being advertised across the UK on all JCDecaux advertising screens. What an experience. Well done Mols, and not forgetting Cicely who made this all possible.

“We’re proud to be representing Wales, farming, rural Britain and so much more.”

Model Moli said: “It was amazing to go to Cardiff and see my photo on the screens.

“I'm proud of my family history and it’s good to show people where my family live and farm. And it's printed in a book which I can keep forever.”


Cicely, currently studying commercial photography at Arts University Bournemouth, said she has always been fascinated by the untamed wildness of the Cambrian Mountains.

“I visited the Pugh family during spring last year when I was producing a documentary photography project on life inside the Cambrian Mountains,” she said.
“I live close to the area, but have been fascinated by the vast and barren rolling hills. I became interested in the way that land is used, the way it’s farmed, the community that goes back hundreds of years and the somewhat mistreatment of the communities that live in rural Wales.
“I visited the Pughs during lambing time, and they helped me to understand the way that farming practices have changed and are continuing the change.

“Moli came out on the bike with me and Charles, moving lambs; she reminded myself of me when I was that age. She was very chatty and charismatic and held the lamb up while I pointed a very clunky camera at her.

“I entered the image into Portrait of Britain with my one free entry, and lo and behold, it is now in a book. It feels very special to have had the opportunity to photograph a family so welcoming and so attached to the landscape, and to be able to represent rural Wales on a national scale.”

This year’s Portrait of Britain winners provide a snapshot of a frenzied year through 99 compelling portraits, which were selected by a panel of industry-leading judges.

To view all 99 images, visit