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It's interesting to remember that sitting on something purpose-made for our posterior and back is a relatively recent phenomenon - certainly in terms of the period of time that people have lived in purpose-built houses. I've no doubt that when men lived in caves, at the end of a day's hunting and foraging, as family groups settled down by a warm fire, there was a rush for the most comfortable ledge, rock or log on which to sit or recline. And yet, as far as western society goes, even as late as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries most people continued to make do with either nothing on which to sit, or a flat, backless wooden bench, chairs being the preserve of the well-to-do. So it's perhaps not surprising that since that time the chair has become one of the most frequently designed and re-designed pieces of furniture.The fact that chairs, and the way we sit on them, are also seen as the main cause of back problems in western society may also be a reason for the amount of attention that designers lavish on the humble chair: get it right and customers will beat a path to your door. Or so you'd think.
We've just spent a couple of days looking after our two year old granddaughter in London, allowing me to combine family duty with a little big-city photography. On a coffee break in a cafe at the Royal Festival Hall I noticed this group of empty chairs near a small stage area. I have a passing interest in chair design and immediately recognised them as Model 3107 Series 7 by the Danish designer and architect, Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971). Now you might be thinking that remembering the model number of something designed in 1955 counts as more than a "passing interest", but the fact is this particular line has been reproduced more than any other and so is very familiar to students of the chair. I remember reading somewhere that in excess of seven million have been manufactured. I also recall that Jacobsen said he got the idea for the design from a chair by Charles and Ray Eames, thus underlining the fact that to make a completely original chair is exceptionally difficult given all the precedents and the need to accommodate the human body. The Model 3107 is a simple, elegant, dining-height design. However, in my experience it isn't the most comfortable of chairs for extended periods unless you carry your own padding in the form of a cushion or a generous posterior. Consequently it's probably the ideal chair for a restaurant where the management wants a quick turnover of customers.
I was drawn to this shot by the variations on a theme that is very evident in the arrangement. Inevitably, when you see a collection such as this you consider which one you like best. For me it's the dark, polished wood version.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f3.5
Speed: 1/30 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On