Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Summat an' nowt

click photo to enlarge
When I was growing up in the Yorkshire Dales the phrase "summat an' nowt" could often be heard, frequently as a dismissive term. "Ay lad", a grown up would say, "I saw that programme last night on t' telly. It were a bit o' summat an' nowt." The literal translation of the phrase is "something and nothing", and the meaning leans heavily towards the final word of those three. "Devoid of substance" is too grand a conversion, but that comes pretty close to what most users of the phrase intend.

"Summat an' nowt" is a phrase I associate with photographs such as today's, or shots like this beach scene, this crow, and this number and boat. They are images that have a small amount of a not very interesting subject and a seemingly large amount of very little. "Something and nothing" is the phrase I've heard used a couple of times to describe such photographs, and when I do my Yorkshire-raised mind supplies the vernacular version. And yet this kind of minimalist image frequently provokes longer and deeper thought on the part of the viewer than does a nominally more interesting subject such as a landscape, portrait or architectural shot. There's not only the "why" of it to consider, but the spare composition invites attention too, and the space concentrates our attention on the details of the "subject". Take my chair on the stairs at Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire. Is it about the chair? Is it a record of this part of an old, mainly ruined building? Neither really. What interested me here was the arrangement of lines in the frame's rectangle that are anchored by the chair. This photograph of part of a school building was also taken mainly for the arrangement of lines. Something else I liked in today's photograph was the washed out, muted colours. There's nothing in the photograph that jumps out and grabs you, everything is calm, still, serene. But not entirely devoid of substance I hope.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On