Friday, January 16, 2009

Sculpture as perch

click photo to enlarge
Whenever I visit Whitby in North Yorkshire I trudge up the steps of West Cliff, to the statue of Captain Cook at the summit, and gaze across the harbour at St Mary's Church and the Abbey. Then I turn and look at the figure of Cook himself and remember that there has NEVER, EVER been an occasion that I done this without there being a herring gull sitting on his head undermining the dignity of his pose, his fine clothes and his serious countenance, making him look absolutely ridiculous, not to say risible!

On my forays into Boston, Lincolnshire, I frequently stop and look up from the Market Place at the tower of St Botolph's church. On these occasions my gaze passes the statue of Herbert Ingram, a Swineshead man, founder of the Illustrated London News and Member of Parliament for Boston. I invariably find that he too is topped by either a black-headed gull or a pigeon that is intent on turning his hair white. In the recent past I've photographed three sculptures with birds on them, two in Southport (the other here) and one in Rotherhithe, London. I used to fondly imagine that gulls perched on statues of people to get their own back for the hard time we give them. However, finding birds standing on bird statues rather scotches that theory.

Today's photograph shows both black-headed gulls and feral pigeons making use of the handy perches provided by the outstretched bodies of Stephen Broadbent's 2002 sculpture in Lincoln, entitled "Empowerment". Despite the fact that the two figures of the piece reach out to one another across the River Witham I'm guessing that neither the sculptor nor those who commissioned it thought too much about its usefulness to the local avian population. I think this sculpture is better than many, but it's not one that especially grabs me. I do, however, dislike its title: it sounds like its been dreamed up by a council committee that lives for the latest jargon. However, the birds of this part of Lincoln love the sculpture. On one occasion I counted almost thirty crammed onto its "perching points". I'm not particularly keen on the supports for the two figures in this sculpture, but I quite like the two almost touching figures, so I made them (along with their feathered friends) the subject of my photograph.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm (80mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On