Friday, February 10, 2012

Churches past and present

click photo to enlarge
There's an old saying that "what we learn from history is that we don't learn from history." It's not hard to find examples in politics, public affairs, private lives, the design of man-made objects and much else that give weight to that somewhat cynical observation. But it's equally easy to point to examples that refute it.

I was thinking about this as I photographed the fine church of St Swithin at Bicker on a morning after snow had fallen during the night. I reflected that the few churches that are built today are much more modest than the buildings of a thousand, five hundred or even one hundred years ago. The Anglican church's desire to impress the populace and glorify God through a large, ornate structure made of expensive materials has moderated considerably in the light of the expense that parishes must expend to maintain old churches. Moreover, the buildings today need to be more flexible, and the traditional elements of nave, chancel, porch and tower don't meet the needs of a church that wishes to host a much wider range of events than just worship. So, yes, today's church buildings reflect the needs of our time and do not blindly follow the precedents of ages past. Of course, there are fewer modern churches - I can only think of half a dozen or so - that make such good photographic subjects as the one in today's image or indeed any of its ancient counterparts, so the church's gain is often the photographer's loss!

I've posted a few photographs of Bicker church before. It's one of the easier churchesto get a good shot of in my part of Lincolnshire. It's not too hemmed in by buildings or large or evergreen trees, at least on the south side which is the best for this kind of photography. However, it's an unusual church where there isn't something that intrudes that you wish wouldn't. From the south east it's the evergreen on the right of the image: from the south west it's the flagpole. The latter forces you to move your position slightly more west of south than you would choose because otherwise the slender upright gets mixed up with the tower and looks odd. However, on the day of this snow everything fell into place in terms of composition and so I got my shot.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On