Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blue and yellow

click photo to enlarge
Many years ago, when I was studying the history of art, I came across the technique known as sgraffito. When used in wall decoration this involves applying two contrasting layers of plaster to the surface and then scratching through the top to reveal the lower. The word derives from the Italian for "scratch" which in turn is linked to the Greek for "write". It is, of course, also connected with the word "graffito" (singular) and the more commonly used (and seen!) plural, "graffiti".

As I've said elsewhere in this blog, in general I'm against graffiti because it is most usually found in the form of "tags" on surfaces where it has no right to be, degrading the appearance of the locality. Even when it has some artistic merit, if it is on someone's property against their wishes or without their permission, I'm against it. However, there's little to object to when graffiti is on a surfaces specifically provided to receive it, or where permission has been granted.

I came upon the graffiti in today's photograph recently and decided that it too was unobjectionable. The marks had been made by fingers in the patina of dust and dirt on the metal surface of a water-borne crane. The state of the boat on which the crane was mounted was more objectionable than the graffiti, which isn't permanent and of little merit, being merely the names and scrawl of passing youths. What made me think the subject worthy of a photograph was the yellow steps and hand rail (with their shadows) against the blue paint and smudges of writing. Blue and yellow are near complementaries - the yellow would have to tip more towards orange for them to be truly complementary. This is a colour pairing that sometimes appeals to me very strongly, and at other times I find quite garish. On this crane the yellow must be for visibility reasons and I quite like it. The irregular graffiti adds an undisciplined counterpoint to the colours and regularity of the metal, and it's probably this that caused me to take my shot.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On