Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phones, water and addiction

Click photo to enlarge
The Tanaka Business School at Imperial College on Exhibition Road, London, is an interesting building completed in 2002-3. Foster & Associates' skin of white framed glass, wraps around an existing building, houses lecture theatres, and acts as an atrium entrance to the college. Its glazed curtain wall reflects the rows of pedimented windows across the road. It was these reflections that caught my attention and prompted my photograph. To give some scale and additional interest to the shot I waited for a couple of passers-by to walk into the frame.

However, when I came to review the image it wasn't the photographic qualities of the shot that grabbed my attention. Rather, it was what the two people happened to be holding. One has a bottle of water, the other a mobile phone. Unwittingly I had captured the two most omnipresent objects that people seem to carry in the first decade of the twenty first century. Had I been taking the shot a hundred years earlier it might have been walking sticks and bags. Fifty years ago a cigarette would surely have featured. But today the mobile phone stands supreme as the "carry around" object of choice, with bottled water not far behind. When people come to date anonymous photographs in the future these will surely be things that will help in determining the time to within fifteen years or so.

Both the mobile phone and bottled water seem to me to be objects of habit not unlike cigarettes. Each is addictive, each incidental, inconsequential even, but to the user is felt to be essential. And both are used to fill moments in the day with something and nothing. Or so it seems to me. As you might gather, I have little use for either. In fact I view bottled water as a significant environmental problem of the age - see my views on it here, and on mobile phones here. I do own a mobile phone, and sometimes (to the despair of my children, only sometimes) carry it, but I use it infrequently - perhaps half a dozen times a year for essential calls when away from home. It must be my age!!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm (80mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On