Thursday, March 25, 2010

Political and architectural revelations

click photo to enlarge
There was great interest, general approval, and the sound of hands rubbing together at the TV networks' headquarters when it was announced that the leaders of the UK's main political parties would engage in three TV debates in the campaign run-up to the general election. From my house came a moan, followed by a groan. It seems to me that TV debates, where the politicians field questions thrown at them by a television pundit, is more akin to bear-baiting than serious politics. The capacity of a prospective prime minister to answer questions in such an arena, his ability to project an "image" that appeals to the public, and the extent to which he fails or succeeds relative to the others, says absolutely nothing about his fitness to hold the highest office in the land.

You can guarantee that a journalist, somewhere, will rate the politicians' TV peformances on the "is he the sort of man you'd like to have a drink with at the pub" scale of 1 to 10. As though that has a bearing on whether or not you should vote for him, or on how he might prepare a programme to take the nation forward over the next five years. Others, regrettably, will cast their vote according to how they come across on TV. Are they authoritative? Are they confident? Do they look the part? Can they speak in language that the man in the street understands? Do I like them? I've heard people say that they want politicians of integrity, dynamism, honesty, etc, and that these debates will help them make that judgement. Rubbish! We delude ourselves if we think that we can judge the character of a person through the distorting lens of television. No, the only thing that we can make a judgement on is the party manifesto - what they say they will do if elected - and then how they perform once in office. My feeling is that many people don't want to engage with politics sufficiently deeply to make a judgement of that sort, and will vote on the basis of "It's time for a change" or "I like him".

What has this to do with a house facade of 1691 in Hallaton, Leicestershire? Well, just as politicians' real motives and character are hidden beneath a veneer that they project to the world, so too are many houses. The first time I saw this building it was under a layer of foliage. However, I later came upon it in March when the thin veil of branches of Virginia creeper(?) only partly masked its simple, symmetrical face, and its true age was revealed . The main elevation is of a time when the seventeenth century had begun to turn towards Georgian. Its windows, in particular the single mullion dividing each into two "lights" betrays its pre-Georgian status, but the absence of transoms hints at a later date. However, the strict symmetry and stone window and door surrounds point to the next century. Beneath the creeper branches is not stone, but a layer of stucco, and under that the construction is brick. Another instance of a building hiding its true character.

What attracted me to this shot was the light reflected across the narrow street from the buildings behind me. It lifted the shade, put colour into the walls, showed the blue sky in the upstairs windows, and allowed me to position myself so I could be seen in the left window of the door.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 16mm (32mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On