Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Destroying the past

click photo to enlarge
The destruction of the past is perhaps the greatest of all crimes.
Simone Weil (1909-1943) French philosopher, Christian mystic and political activist
Despite having great sympathy with Simone Weil's statement I don't find it difficult to think of a worse crime than destroying the past. However, to remove evidence of mankind's past is, undoubtedly, a particularly destructive thing to do. Our sense of the present is greatly informed by our knowledge of the past, and to lose one is to impair the other. The past - in printed or image form, in memories and in buildings and artefacts -  is all that we have to remember those who came before us. To rub them out is to extinguish people, and that is always wrong, whether they are living or dead.

If we confine ourselves to buildings we find that Isis are not the first group to wilfully and deliberately destroy ancient structures for their own ends. The Taliban did it in Afghanistan and in 1942 the Luftwaffe did it in their so-called Baedecker Raids on Britain, a response they said, to the switch to area bombing by the RAF. However, it is not always warring factions that are most responsible for the destruction of the past. All too frequently it is simple neglect or misplaced planning and "progress". In the 1960s and 1970s many ancient buildings that today would have been preserved, adapted and turned to new uses, were swept away in the name of progress. It took the destruction of the Euston Arch to galvanise people against the vandalism that was taking place and begin to bring to an end the loss that was taking place.

Tattershall Castle (above) was one of the buildings in the forefront of early building preservation legislation. In 1910, in a ruinous state, it was bought by Lord Curzon and sensitively restored. It had been destined to be dismantled and parts sold abroad. His experience with this building prompted Lord Curzon to press for some laws to protect old buildings resulting in the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act of 1913. As a direct consequence of his actions we can still experience something of this ancient building - as the mother and daughter are doing in today's photograph.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12mm (24mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On