Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Churchyard gravestones

click photo to enlarge
Standing in Quadring churchyard the other morning, my fingers chilly on the cold metal of the camera, I started to move about in an attempt to keep the recent, black marble gravestones out of the composition of my photograph. There is no doubt that, among the lichen encrusted oolitic limestone and the green and grey of the slate from Swithland and elsewhere that is characteristic of the older gravestones, these newer examples stick out like the proverbial sore thumbs. Over the years, and in different localities, church authorities have periodically tried to bring some aesthetic harmony to gravestones, particularly where they are being sited next to outstanding old examples, or where the churchyard is particularly uniform in this regard, or is especially picturesque. I have some sympathy for these attempts, and yet I can see a sound argument against it too.

At the very minimum, in sensitive churchyards, I'd like to see local stone, or stone that was been used down the centuries, or a stone that is similar to the traditional type, continue in use in the interests of visual harmony. In a churchyard such as that at Quadring areas of similarly styled gravestones tend to be grouped together according to the few decades in which they were erected, with the oldest the closest to the south, west and east of the church. Imported marble appears in the Victorian period and thereafter increases in both quantity and stridency. The currently fashionable glossy black examples with incised gold lettering jars with everything around them. Perhaps they'll weather to an acceptable finish, but I doubt it. Of course, were my prescription to be followed then the fertility of the memorial designer's art would be somewhat curtailed and the possibility of a new and admirable wave of gravestones appearing is lessened. That is the main disadvantage. On balance, however, I'd take that over the agglomeration of styles that sit awkwardly together today, with quite the worse being those made in the decades either side of about 1920, badly finished stone with letters and numbers fixed to their surface, looking drab and nondescript barely a hundred years after making.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On