Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Deserted streets and old photographs

click photo to enlarge
One of the characteristics of old photographs of country towns and villages is the relative absence of people and vehicles. In particular, the motor cars that are everywhere today are noticeable by their absence. Old photographs of that sort give us a feel for what we have surrendered to the motor vehicle's relentless growth and spread. Of course not all old photographs have this characteristic. City shots taken in the second half of the Victorian period frequently teem with life - people, horses, carriages and carts, sometimes livestock on its way to market or slaughter. But in the smaller settlements a typical shot has no one, or perhaps just a few people, often standing still, gazing with interest at the camera as the photographer records that moment in time.

A few days ago I was in the small Lincolnshire town of Horncastle. As I walked along West Street, a main thoroughfare at the edge of the centre of the settlement, I gazed at the Victorian, Georgian and older buildings that line the way. As is the case in quite a few towns in this eastern county, they have not been "messed about with" too much, and still display much of the character that they adopted when first built. Looking at the scene I mentally took out the roof aerials, street lights and the tarmac road with its markings. As I was doing so an amazing thing happened. The vehicles that had been passing singly and in groups stopped appearing. For a minute or so West Street became deserted and I seemed to step back in time to about one hundred and fifty years ago. I took my shot of the empty road. When I came to process it on the computer I only needed to convert it to black and white to complete the illusion.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: iAuto
Focal Length: 28.8mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 160
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On