Friday, December 12, 2014

Constable, Lik, Lutyens and ducks

click photo to enlarge
Just as absence makes the heart grow fonder so too does repetition make the eye grow weary. The sort of repetition I'm thinking of is the far too frequent pictorial representation of something. In my childhood it was the painting by John Constable called "The Haywain". It's an image that, for many, encapsulates a lost England, a past of horses, thatched cottages, roads that have never seen or heard the motor car, villages unadulterated by mass housing, superstores and the showy paraphernalia of modern life. In short, somewhere that really only exists in fond imaginings. When I was young "The Haywain" featured on calendars, chocolate boxes, reproduction paintings, advertisements, jigsaws, birthday cards, coasters - just about anything that would take its image. This mass bombardment by Constable's fine painting not only devalued it in the eyes of many, but also made people fed up with the sight of it.

Today, in photography, Antelope Canyon, a beautiful geographical feature in the United States has, in recent years, received "The Haywain" treatment. It too features in everything from advertisements to calendars to motivational posters. Worse than that, far too many enthusiastic photographers seem to have journeyed to this phenomenon simply to take their over-saturated version of the "Antelope Canyon" shot. And one is bound to ask - Why?!  What is the point in reproducing a photograph that has been seen so many times before? Why add to the hundreds of thousands of existing photographs? Isn't it better to find a subject that hasn't been photographed to death and try and make something of it? Something or somewhere in your locality, something that you are familiar with? There's a challenge, and there's an opportunity to add something new and original to photography.

Of course, the answer to my question about why would you photograph this much snapped canyon has been answered in recent days: "Because you may be able to sell the image for millions of dollars just as Peter Lik has done." Well, perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps now that Lik has "monetized" (as they say today) the subject, maybe people will give it a rest and take to more mundane but no less interesting subjects, such as silhouetted ducks on water in front of a Lincolnshire cenotaph designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20.2mm (54mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/200
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On