Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A stroll in the park

In his poem, "Leisure", W.H. Davies writes, "What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?" What indeed? One of the great Victorian contributions to our towns and cities - public parks - gave the common man a place to stand and stare, or play football, or stroll and chat, or do a thousand other things, all in a green and open space.

This park, at Greenwich, is one of London's eight Royal Parks. It is 183 acres (73 hectares) in extent and is located on a hilltop with views across the Thames to Docklands and the City. Uniquely it includes a number of major historic buildings including the Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum, Queen's House, and the Old Royal Observatory. The latter (built by Wren, and shown at the top of the photograph) has the prime meridian - zero degrees longitude - going through it. It houses a wonderful collection of telescopes showing their development through the centuries. Some of these are still in their original location and able to be used.

This photograph is unusual for me in that it shows lots of people! For some photographers people are the whole point. I've never really seen it that way. Sometimes I use people as scale, or to balance a composition, or to give a focus to a scene. But often I wait until the last person has walked out of the viewfinder before pressing the shutter! My family have pointed out that I'm the only person ever to take a photograph at the top of the Puy de Dome in France that doesn't include a single person!

My reason for this shot was to capture the park on an unseasonally warm spring day, and record the goings on. The scene reminded me of a genre of Victorian paintings that show parks and streets thronged with people - the sort that Tissot or Seurat might have done. It was taken very quickly, with only an intuitive thought about composition, and the desire to include a little of the fast disappearing blue sky! And, despite all the people, I'm really pleased with it!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen