Has Photography been Trivialised?

I was reading an article the other day about the number of photographs that are taken each  year, and in addition the number of photographs with people in them, who don’t know that they are IN them.

A bit of research took me to the oldest known photograph with people in it.  It was taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre, and it shows Boulevard du Temple, in Paris.

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The street is lined with lamps and trees, and in the middle of the frame is a tiny figure. A man getting his shoe shined, who likely had no idea his image was being captured at all. (In fact, Boulevard du Temple is and was a busy street. When Daguerre took the photo, there were carts and people streaming up and down the street and sidewalks, but only this one man shows up because the photograph had to be taken over the course of 10 minutes. Only the man standing still shows up after such a long exposure.)

A lot has changed since then – think of the numbers of photographs taken each day, and uploaded to Facebook, or shared with applications such as Snapchat. Facebook revealed in a white paper that its users have uploaded more than 250 billion photos, and are uploading 350 million new photos each day.  It’s a number that I just can’t get my head around.

Another way to think about it (and data here from another blog I read) – more photographs are uploaded every day, than existed in total 150 years ago – and that’s just the ones that are uploaded.  It doesn’t count all the ones stored on hard drives.

Images are becoming almost mundane – it’s all been done – and much like the UK debt, they can only increase with the passing of time, especially if you think of the numbers of mobile phones being used as cameras.

I do wonder, at what point will the number of images being taken, become so overwhelming that the medium of photography will become trivialised and border on meaningless.

Already it is getting harder and harder to find images that are unique, and photographically exciting.  The rise the in popularity of photography started to skyrocket around the year 2000 with the production of the ‘smart’ phone.  Photography is now moving forward so fast, that it’s likely to be tripping up over its own feet.

Has the magic disappeared?

I certainly think that some photographers have started to become lazy.  For example, take the photographing of UK wildlife – if you wanted photographs 20 years ago – you had to go out and look for it yourself.  You had to learn skills.  Tracking, hunting, understanding your subject.  Now, if you want a photo of, say, a red squirrel, you just look on line, and pay someone to set up a hide for you – supply the requisite nuts – and maybe even tell you what camera settings to use.

And of course it’s even easier with a digital camera – you can afford to make mistakes and use the wrong settings.  Just take a lot of images, and if it all goes wrong, pay again, and shoot again.   The comment “oh, it’s another red squirrel”, was not one  you would have heard even 10 years ago, but it is much more prevalent now.

For me, the act of being a photographer is much more than just recording my day to day life, and posting my lunch on Instagram.  It’s about the excercise of the process, rather than the result of the process.

A commitment to follow the path of art can be a thrilling one.  It’s not about the technology (though as I have said in the past, it can help), it’s about the making of the image, and I still find this to be the very best part.

I’ve also found over the last 18 months or so, that entering competitions has lost some of its flavour.  I see so many changes and developments in the different categories of the competitions, and just can’t keep up with all of them.  Not that I’m expected to I suppose.

On the other hand, I find the new technologies to be tremendously exciting – the advent of the mirrorless camera has provided me (and a good number of others) with a new found freedom.  They are lightweight, compact, and the images are massively superior to some of the older DSLR cameras out there – and when I say older, I don’t mean THAT much older either.  The ability to throw a small camera into a bag and walk out and shoot has been something I missed for a long time.

My first camera was a Sony Cybershot with 3.2 Million Pixels.  It used the (then fashionable) memory stick.  Easy to stick in my pocket – it got used a lot.  Then along came the bridge camera, and later my first DSLR  – the Canon 350D – still reasonably compact – but then the Canon 5D, and later still on to the Canon 1Series.  Each time they got bigger, heavier, and the lens followed suit.

The advent of mirrorless was only on the fringes of my perception for a long time.  Then suddenly Fuji, Sony, Olympus, and others,  produced a range of gear that, in the end I had to take notice of, and the purchase of the Fuji X-T2, and now X-T3, has encouraged (and allowed) me to shoot even more.

So, has photography been trivialised?  To some extent I would think so – but in the same breath, I think there is still room for the serious shooter, and I’m looking forward to browsing Instagram, Facebook, 500px and other places for my next batch of inspiration.

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A16 towards Tetford

 

Where East Meets West – Part 5

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Continuing on my journey – following the Meridian (or as near as – as the mood takes me) – we wandered over towards Tetford.  We parked up, after noticing a disused chalk quarry with lots of signs warning us of the dangers therein, so of course we had to take a quick look.  I hasten to add at this point, that we didn’t actually trespass, or climb over the wire – but there were photographs that we could take from the roadside.  I didn’t much fancy falling over the cliff edge.

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The site must have been a very busy one in the past, and we could still see the weigh station scales by only scrambling up the grassy bank.

I did a bit of a seach about this site, but could only discover that it was still in operation in 1970, but  not when it closed.  It was worked by Singleton Birch Ltd for the cretaceous Chalk to be used for industrial chalk and lime.

So, with the weather looking like it might get better – we pressed on towards Sumersby – the birthplace of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

The whole area round Somersby is quintessentially English.  The sort of place the J R R Tolkien would have felt at home in – and with village names like Bag Enderby – even more so.  I think that Bilbo Baggins should have set up home here.

Somersby

There has been a church at Somersby since the 1200’s, and this one is built of local Splilsby Sandstone. Alfred Lord Tennyson was born – and spent the first 28 years of his life here in Somersby.  His father George Clayton Tennyson was rector of St. Margaret’s, Somersby and of its namesake in the neighbouring village of Bag Enderby for 23 years until his death.  Pictures of that later.

Inside the church belfry was discovered  graffiti which simply says ‘AT 1837’. Was this Alfred signing off? The family left that year and he never returned.

Somersby

The statue of Tennyson is to the West end of the Church, and I was able to capture this silhouette as the light came through the window.

St Margaret’s sister church and namesake in nearby Bag Enderby, is also of greenstone and has several interesting features such as segmental window arches of note and a perpendicular octagonal font.  Alfred Tennyson’s father was rector of both churches and would walk between the two, and deliver long and impenetrable sermons at both.

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Tennyson himself spent many years wandering through this idyllic landscape composing his poetry as he went.

On the way home we decided to visit Ashby Puerorum – the name caught my eye on the map, and it’s not far off the Meridian Line, so although the light was fading, and it looked like rain – we went for a look……

Ashby Puerorum owes its unusual name to a 13th-century Bishop of Lincoln, Oliver Sutton, who renamed the village when he decreed that all profits from the living here should go to support the choirboys of Lincoln Cathedral. The name ‘Ashby Puerorum’ translates loosely as ‘the little boys’ Ashby’. The connection is remembered over 7 centuries later, for the choir still sings at St Andrews church occasionally.

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The village dates to at least the late Saxon period and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was owned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, William the Conqueror’s half-brother. At that time it was called Ascheby, meaning a farmstead where ash trees grow. It supported a population of 9 villagers, 2 smallholders, and 14 freemen.

In the church tower are a pair of early medieval bells. The oldest bell is said to date from around 1150, which would make it the oldest surviving bell in the county. The church is set beside a farmyard and from the churchyard there are excellent views out over the Lincolnshire Wolds.

We ended our day, as the rain started at Brinkhill –

The church  is dedicated to St Phillip  and is a Grade II listed building dating from 1857.  In the churchyard stands an ancient listed churchyard cross, the base of which dates from the 14th century, with a 19th-century alteration.

The Greenwich Prime Meridian line passes through the village.

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I hope you are enjoying the Meridian journey.  I’m hoping for better weather as time goes on, and hopefully at the end of it all, I can put together a talk for camera clubs, and anyone else who might like to see it all.

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Where East Meets West – Part 4

As I continue my wanderings across the county, I’m finding places, and exploring the wolds far more than perhaps I would have done without any incentive.  It is very pleasant to just ramble about the countryside with an aim in mind, and trying to keep track of where I’ve been, and where I’m going.  There are not many days when the combination of the right light, and freedom to wander combine, but when they do it’s great.

The intention is to try and keep something like on the meridian line, but I’m also trying to include a good area on either side of it.  I’m sure as I head further South, and finally leave the wolds, there will be more towns and villages to explore.  For this post though, it’s churches……. and some odd teapots..

Meandering a little further South than Louth – I came into Burwell, where there were lovely views of the wolds, and then the road ran back down onto the A16 – as an aside – I came back this way the other day, and the farmer is putting a strong fence line on the right hand side of this picture, so I won’t get this shot again!

Down on the main A16 can be found the Buttercross – a Grade II listed building since 1967. The buttercross was built in c1700 and converted into a dovecote in the mid 1800s, and following further changes became the village hall at Burwell. It’s now empty and boarded up.  It was up for sale, and in fact the sale board is still there, propped against the doorway.  The pub next door is also closed now.

I think the buttercross must have been a medieval market at one time, and all the sides would have been open.  It has incredibly atrractive brickwork.

Next came the tiny parish of Haugham – and the spectactular stained glass window in All Saints Church.

Entering the building and seeing this bronze coloured window was quite a surpise, but sadly it looks like the left hand pane has been broken.  The light was gorgeous, and the colours intense.

The outside of the building, as you can see was rather like a miniature version of St James Church in Louth.

Further on, we came across this – looking rather like a gibbet, but with some strange decorations….

A strange collection of what looks like teapots, morph, fungii, and Eeyore ….

Next – I stumbled upon what was described as Lincolnshire’s smallest Church – that of St Olave in Ruckland.

St Olave’s church is one of Lincolnshire’s smallest churches and it is dedicated to St Olave (Olaf) who was of Norwegian royal blood, the son of King Herald and queen Aasta. Ruckland is the only church in Lincolnshire dedicated to him.

You can find out more about St Olaf by clicking this link

The church on this site previously measured 31ft long and 17ft wide but by 1880 it was evident that repairs to the church had become urgently necessary.  It was decided that a complete rebuild was the only solution, and Mr William Scorer, Architect of Lincoln, was engaged to plan the work.  The old church was completely demolished and the stones re-used to erect the present church on the same foundations, however as the Rector and Church Wardens had not applied for a faculty to demolish the old church and rebuild, the new church was technically a secular building requiring rededication before it could be used. This was carried out by the Bishop of Lincoln.

The interior is plain, but attractive, and includes a rather splendid organ that requires pumping.  More portable than pipe organs, these free-reed organs were widely used in smaller churches and in private homes in the 19th century, but their volume and tonal range were limited.  You can see the organ to the right of the image/s below.  The cabinet is superb with beutiful polished woodwork.  Obviously a much loved, and well used church.

Next time – the Chalk Quarry Tetford Hill, Somersby, Bag Enderby, Ashby Puerorum, and Brinkhill.

RAF Stenigot

At the top of my blog page is a photo of the radar dishes left at RAF Stenigot.

It was one of twenty Chain Home radar stations, stretching from the Isle of Wight to the Orkneys. They were built as part of the air defence network of the United Kingdom, and were critical to the aerial response during the Battle of Britain. Construction of the base actually preceded the commencement of the Second World War in 1938, with the station becoming operational in 1939.  The Chain Home programme was the world’s first operational air defence radar system, and was capable of detecting incoming aircraft flying at 35000ft, from a distance of 180 miles, and thereby helping to direct fighter aircraft to intercept. The system comprised a transmitter block, shielded by blast walls, to broadcast the radar waves from four tall transmitter towers, only one of which now survives.  The returning signals were gathered by a number of wooden receiving towers (none of which now survive), and then passed to the receiver block for analysis. The receiver block was located at the northern end of the station, and was built to a similar design as the transmitter block, also being surrounded by blast walls. Further ancilliary structures, including a standby set-house, underground armoury, petrol store and guard post, were located on the site. The station is believed to have typically employed around 120 people.

Duplicates of the transmitter and receiver blocks were constructed at the station after heavy enemy attacks on the south coast Chain Home stations on the 12th August 1940. These back-up facilities were entirely buried underground, to enable the station to continue in use should enemy bombing damage the original structures. This buried reserve is believed to have been located towards the eastern end of the station, and in fact there is an entrance to an underground chamber on the site).

Further buildings were added to the site in 1942, when a station of the GEE Navigation System was established at the base. This system helped to guide allied bombing missions in raids on the continent up to 1945.

Military use of the site continued during the Cold War, when a relay station of the ACE High tropospheric scatter communications system was installed on the site, and operated for NATO by the Royal Corps of Signals. The facility was built within its own fenced compound inside the former chain home radar station, with construction work being completed in 1960. The relay station consisted of a large, single-storey central electronics building, flanked by two pairs of parabolic dish antennae. Each dish measured 60ft in diameter, and was supported on seven lattice legs made of steel girders, anchored to large concrete blocks. One pair of the dishes pointed north, to pass signals to the next relay station near Alnwick, Northumberland, whilst the other pair pointed south, to pass signals to the relay station near Maidstone, Kent. The station included a number of ancilliary structures, including a generator house, fuel tanks, and a police house and guard dog pens near to the entrance on the sourthern side. The entire site was surrounded by floodlights. The system continued in operation until the early 1990s, when new forms of communication technology rendered ACE High obsolete.

So, if you got this far, you’ll find now a photo of the site as taken some time ago by Andrew Appleton, who sent this photo to a friend of mine – Vicky.

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As you can see – they’ve gone, but I can’t find any information on line as to when.  I did find a video link on uTube dated August this year, so the removal was really recent.  Another landmark bites the dust….. RIP Stenigot……

Update

Construction firm J E Spence and Son have confirmed that the radar dishes were “chopped up” and sent to a scrapyard in October 2018.

Only one radar dish remains at the site after the construction company, working for the landowner, began the process of taking them down on October 16.

A spokesperson for J E Spence and Son said: “I’m guessing they’ll be melted down. They have been chopped up and sent to a scrapyard.”

 

Where East Meets West – Part 3 – Louth

This last week or so, I’ve tried to continue my quest to follow (pretty much) the Meridian Line, as it crosses the county.  The weather hasn’t been that good, so I might have to revisit a couple of the places.

However, I started the next section in Louth. The Greenwich Meridian passes through the town and is marked on Eastgate with plaques on the north and south sides of the street, just east of the junction with Northgate, although this location is known to be incorrect as the line actually passes through a point just west of Eastgate’s junction with Church Street.


There is a further marker in the “Gatherums” and more information about Aswell street, and the Gatherums, can be found HERE .



Outside St James Church, stands Meridian Man, a relatively recent sculpture depicting the proximity of the East / West meridian that runs close by.

He is one of three figures created by sculptor Lawrence Edwards and book artist Les Bicknell, both of Suffolk.  The others were outside the library, and the third at Kidgate School.

I need to return to Louth in better weather, to include more images of the town, and surrounding areas.

In the meantime, the full collection of images, as they grow, can be found on my website…. Please click below….

The Meridian Project