Sunday, January 06, 2008

I've got those faded-jeans, knocked-about-a-bit blues

click photo to enlarge
It must have been around 1980 that I stopped buying denim jeans. I went to the shops to buy my preferred make - Wrangler as I recall - and nowhere could I find a pair that hadn't been partly worn-out by some kind of stone-washing. Now call me old-fashioned, or tight-fisted if you prefer, but I like to buy my jeans made of pristine, indigo blue denim that the originators in Nimes might have recognised. Don't get me wrong, I like the faded effect, and that "knocked-about-look", but I want it to be gradually acquired through regular use and the rough-and-tumble of life. A few hours rotation in a drum full of pebbles in a Chinese factory doesn't cut it for me - it's ersatz, not authentic. A bit like - to digress more than somewhat - the famous black and white photograph of James Dean, his collar turned up against the New York rain, cigarette in the corner of his mouth, looking world weary. World weary at 24! If you believe the message of that shot you'll believe in fairies.

But - here comes the confession - last year I bought some partly worn-out, stone-washed, already-faded jeans. After 27 years of holding out I succumbed. I'm not proud of it. They were inexpensive, and I was tempted by the price. They undoubtedly do the job (though it won't be for as long as it might have been). Yet, each time I slip them on I feel that the jeans have got to that "knocked-about-look" under false pretences. Their patina is not of age but artifice. Their paleness isn't from the trials and tribulations of life. What's more their looks aren't as a result of a journey shared - with me.

So, you may be wondering, what has this to do with a photograph of the church of St Margaret at Braceby in Lincolnshire. Well, I like a full-on Gothic-masterpiece of a medieval church as much as (no, probably more than!) the next man. But I also have a soft spot for a knocked-about wreck of a building like St Margaret's. It's had clerestories added, aisles swept away, windows re-positioned, arcades filled and roof-lines altered to the point where it looks a real ugly duckling. But, importantly, it wears its past honestly, with no shame: there is nothing ersatz about St Margaret's. If it was a pair of jeans it would have had no truck with pebbles! So I was very happy to photograph it among the crazily leaning gravestones of its churchyard, as the sun broke through the clouds on a cold January morning.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: Off