Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Fleetwood Pharos

click photo to enlarge
Decimus Burton (1800-1881), as his name suggests, was his parents' 10th born child! Despite his lowly family position he grew up to become a successful and prolific English architect. His work can be found in London at Regent's Park, Kew Gardens, London Zoo and elsewhere, as well as in the provinces in places like St Leonard's-on-Sea and Tunbridge Wells. However, he was given his greatest commission when Peter Hesketh asked him to design the new port and resort of Fleetwood, Lancashire. Although their vision was not fully realised - the money ran out - Burton did bequeath a radial street plan with terraced housing, and a number of fine individual buildings. These include the North Euston Hotel, Queen's Terrace, Lower Lighthouse and the lighthouse shown in the photograph above, the Pharos.

Lighthouses are popular subjects for photographers. The locations -headlands, rocky islands, windswept remote beaches, etc - are often photogenic places, and the towering building casting its safe and welcome light seaward appeals to the romantic in us all. But because they are so frequently photographed it's hard to find a new approach.

This lighthouse at Fleetwood lacks the poetic location - it stands among the streets of the town. However the red sandstone structure with its grand detailing make for a fine sight on a bright day. It was on such a day that I decided to photograph it, and it took me some time to come up with a different perspective. I was fairly clear that such a strong vertical shape could not be central unless there was strong asymmetry elsewhere in the scene. As I looked through the viewfinder and lamented the lack of clouds I saw the tram wires appearing to converge near the top of the lighthouse. It was then a small matter to offset the top of the Pharos to the right, and ensure the wires led the viewer's eyes towards it whilst adding interest to the remaining space. My image isn't the classic lighthouse photograph, but its simplicity pleases me.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen