Thursday, December 10, 2009

The sign of The Black Swan

click photo to enlarge
The traditional English pub sign is a joy. It usually comprises an oil painting that illustrates the name of the pub. This hangs from a projecting bracket on the side of the building or on a purpose-built stand. Thus, The Red Lion may have an heraldic lion - rampant, passant, reguardant, rarely couchant - or a shield with the lion as the charge on it. One of the many pubs called The Plough will, in all probability, have a ploughman holding the said implement as he follows his horse. The King's Head will have just that, the particular monarch being chosen either with regard to the date of the building of the pub, or on the whim of the brewery, the landlord or the sign painter. And, because there are so many different pub names, the variety of images on the signs is enormous.

But, in recent years, the insidious growth of corporatism, "branding" and pub designers has led to something of a decline in the number of traditional pub signs. They are still in the great majority, but I notice more and more "modern" signs appearing. These often have a limited palette - usually two colours - and have a simple motif replacing the detail of the traditional sign. Many are conceived in the spirit of a corporate logo rather than a centuries old artefact. And, unlike the older model, the newer ones date very quickly and are usually replaced with something equally inept. A particularly bad example I once saw was on a pub called The Crossed Keys, a common name said to derive from the symbol of St Peter, or perhaps the archbishopric of York. The pub designers had painted black keys - with a trendy ragged outline - on a khaki coloured background. It wasn't eye-catching and the name wasn't spelled out in full: it didn't even warrant a glance, and certainly wasn't of the quality that invites the onlooker to admire the painter's art and reflect on how the establishment's name has been interpreted compared with others you've seen. And, regrettably that's true of most "modern" pub signs.

However, today, whilst on a shopping expedition in Spalding, Lincolnshire, I noticed this modern sign that I quite like. Admittedly it wouldn't work so well on a cloudy day, but the lights on each side of it may well throw interesting shadows at night. I chose a black and white conversion to accentuate its graphic qualities.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 9.3mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f3.5
Shutter Speed: 1/1000
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On