Monday, January 28, 2008


click photo to enlarge
Photographers don't like symmetry. Nor do painters, graphic artists or sculptors. But architects and designers do, and always have done!

Symmetry in building is a manifestation of the Classical mindset. Greek and Roman architecture is highly symmetrical, and so are the Renaissance styles that took their inspiration from the antique. However, the rise of the Romantic movement pushed all this to one side. The love of the wild, the untamed, the natural, all led to an admiration for architecture and design that eschewed symmetry. Thus, in landscape gardening, out went formal French parterres, and in came "informal" English parkland with its serpentine paths and lakes, and asymmetrically placed "eyecatcher" follies. Out went Palladianism, and in came asymmetrical houses and villas like Nash's Cronkhill House and Philip Webb's Red House. Interestingly Gothic architecture loved both symmetry and asymmetry. Romantic painters favoured asymmetrical compositions, and Modernists continued this love affair. Photography seems to have adopted its position by reference to painting: balanced asymmetry is in, straightforward symmetry is out.

But I like a bit of symmetry now and again! Today's photograph is of Boston Baptist Church, built in 1837, a time when English church architects had dumped Georgian Classicism, and were casting around for a new style. This rather spare Gothic characterises the period before 1840. After that date the writings of A.W.N. Pugin and the Oxford Movement pushed churches towards a Gothic based on archaeolgical principles and the careful study of real medieval buildings. The design above is interesting, but owes nothing to Pugin, and verges more on the hysterical than the historical!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (40mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off