Friday, September 24, 2010

Oh no, not another bench!

click photo to enlarge
"Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before."
Edith Wharton (1862 - 1937) U.S. novelist

The title of this piece wasn't exactly the phrase that my wife used when she watched me get up from our dry bench and start to photograph this nearby wet one, but it is the gist of what I thought was her rather hurtful remark (I'm a sensitive soul you know :). I've commented before on my predilection for photographing public seating. Some might think this an obsession, others a harmless character trait, and there will be those who see it as a mark of the lack of imagination in the photographer. However, in my defence I offer the quotation at the head of this piece. It is by the famous U.S. author, Edith Wharton, who was the first female winner of the Pulitzer Prize, in 1921, with her book, "The Age of Innocence". I make no claims for art in my photography, but I do think that mining the seam of a defined subject is a good way for any photographer to proceed.

Thinking further about the quotation it seems to me it is truer today than it was when it was made. Certainly many UK artists of the last twenty years have skipped from one subject to another, using a variety of media ranging from paint to concrete to elephant dung to dead animals to...well, you name it. I've often thought the productions of the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin to be shallow, juvenile, the sort of work where what you see is all there is. Edith Wharton's "that common symptom of immaturity" strikes a chord with me.
I used to think that my photographic ouvre was rather wide ranging, and I recall blogging a piece to that end. However, when I stand back and look at my output I've come to realise that I do plough a fairly defined group of furrows. And yes, one of them is public benches!

I took a few shots of this rather uncomfortable bench, including this one that is deliberately slightly overexposed. I was looking to de-emphasise the ground and adjoining wall, and, even though it took the detail out of some of the highlights on the bench itself, it's the photograph I prefer. This sepia-tone finish on a black and white conversion also appealed to me.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On