Saturday, March 08, 2008

A different kind of vandal?

click photo to enlarge
The other day I paid my £2.50 to climb just over half-way up the 272 feet high tower of the church of St Botolph in Boston, Lincolnshire. As I puffed and panted up the dark, narrow, spiral staircases I couldn't help but notice the graffiti that generations of visitors had left on the walls.

The most recent were of the "Marky woz ere 22-10-07" variety, or were protestations of undying love, written in text-speak with either a pen or scratched on the surface of the stone. There were also many examples from the twentieth century, and nineteenth century examples weren't difficult to find. But, when I ducked under an arch-cum-doorway that went through a corner buttress, I came upon this interesting group. At the bottom is the date 167?, the last digit being indecipherable due to erosion. Above is the name W. Lisons, another W (to make it symmetrical?) and the date 1753. Then there are further letters (I and S), with a star, that also look eighteenth century, and a mixture of other letters and marks of more recent origin.

As I gazed at them I reflected on why someone would write their name with a hammer and chisel on this ancient building, high above the town. Then it struck me that back then pens were neither as portable nor as permanent as today's, and aerosol cans weren't even a figment of someone's imagination. So I suppose that if you were looking for a bit of fame, notoriety, or even immortality (of sorts), then this might seem the way to achieve it at very little cost. It occurred to me that today's spray painters with their "tags", bubble writing and stencils, probably mark "their" territory from much the same motives. My final thought was that the graffiti that disfigures our present environment wouldn't be quite so ubiquitous if it had to be done with a hammer and chisel. Furthermore the noise as they chip-chipped the letters would make it so much easier to catch the miscreants, and Banksy's anonymity would be very short-lived!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On