Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Things ancient & modern

click photo to enlarge
It's an interesting exercise to go through a house and identify which items would have been present, albeit in a different form, five hundred years ago.

Chairs? Only the well-to-do would have had them: stools and benches would have been more widespread. Tables? Yes, in some houses. Beds? Not for the masses! Plates - maybe, but platters for many. Knives? Yes. Forks? Not necessarily. Pictures? Only if you had enough money left over after buying the essentials and more obvious luxuries. Light? Usually candles, tallow lamps, firelight, or the light of day, depending on income.

The rate at which western society acquired material possessions started to accelerate in the C18, picked up speed in the C19, and in the second half of the C20 was unprecedented. How much longer it can carry on, and at what point we decide we have "enough" (if we ever do) is a moot point. However, at various times in this breakneck rush to amass "things", people have wanted to hold on to what they remember from the past. For example, in the early C21 you can buy telephones mimicking the design of the late C19, candles are popular items in homes even though electricity is everywhere, and hand-made cards are as popular as they were in the Victorian era. Furthermore, in churches you can still see C18 chandeliers like the one in my first photograph, whilst down the road a church can display a C21 electrolier (second photograph), aping the design of two hundred and fifty years earlier.

My photographs were taken in two very different churches, one quite ancient, and the other relatively new, dating from 1842. I used zoom lenses for both shots, and tried to shoot from directly below the lights. I raised the ISO to 400, and hand held the camera in both cases. Both shots are square crops from larger images, and present unusual views of objects that would be instantly recognised from another angle.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen