Friday, December 07, 2012

Staring at stairs

click photo to enlarge
When I looked in my edition of the Oxford English Dictionary I initially couldn't find the word "stairwell". But, after a bit of digging, it turned up towards the end of the "stair" entry. The definition was as I imagined, namely "the shaft containing a flight of stairs." It seems to be one of those words that is slowly falling out of use, being replaced by "stairs" and "staircase", neither of which properly describes the architectural space, but rather the structure for ascent and descent that it holds.

I was pondering this word as I processed my photograph of a glass-walled stairwell in some Hull offices, a shot that I'd taken during the early evening on my last visit to the Yorkshire city. It occurred to me that I had to - wait for it - "stare well" before I took my photograph, but that no one in the building took the slightest bit of notice of me. That was quite a contrast with what happened when I took an early evening photograph of a glass walled building in the private public space that is "More London" a couple of years ago. On that occasion a security guard came out and asked me to stop taking photographs. I thought then, as I thought when I took the photograph in Hull, that anyone who doesn't want to be photographed inside the building in which they work really shouldn't choose one with glass walls. If you inhabit a goldfish bowl you can't complain if people stand and look at you or take photographs, especially if the land outside is public space. Besides, doesn't an architect, in designing in this way, seek to both satisfy the practical and aesthetic needs of the client and offer the locality a building worth looking at? And can we be blamed if we look - or take photographs? Those in this office certainly seemed untroubled by me taking shots from nearby and further away. Would that London offices were as accommodating!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 80mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 1000
Exposure Compensation:  -1.00 EV
Image Stabilisation: On