Saturday, December 02, 2006

Pernicious pylons

click photo to enlarge
I hate pylons! They are a blot on the landscape almost without comparison. Every piece of our green and pleasant land that they cross is disfigured by their presence. And every grim industrial landscape is taken down a further notch by these eyesores. Wherever I see them they remind me of giant, skeleton, folded, paper-cut people, holding hands, as they stride over uplands and lowlands, farms and fields; an unstoppable army spreading out from their power station bases.

Pylons were first introduced in the UK in the 1920s and 1930s. At the time people protested about their construction, deploring the defacement of the countryside. But others welcomed them because they brought electricity to areas that had hitherto been denied this modern amenity. Today, I'm sure, many people simply don't notice them. However I do, and I frequently mentally subtract their presence from a view to remind myself what we've lost. When, in the late 1990s, the government was casting around for something to commemorate the new millennium, my suggestion was to spend a couple of billion pounds replacing as many pylons as possible with buried cables. Instead we got a fantastically expensive and useless Dome at Greenwich!

The other evening I drove under a line of these metal monsters and stopped to take some shots against the light. A farmer asked me why I was photographing pylons - I think he thought I was a bit odd! When I explained what I liked about the strong, multiple shapes against the light he became more expansive, and told me that kestrels regularly build a nest on the lowest arm of one of them. The graphic qualities of the stacked, receding structures is (I hate to admit!) visually interesting, and that's what drew me into the photographs. I liked how, through the lens, the steel and wires looked like a delicate technical diagram, and I decided to make that the theme of a few of my images. For my shots I used a long zoom lens at 300mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera at 100 ISO, Aperture Priority (f6.3, 1/4,000 sec), with -1.0EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen