meanderings of a photographer of people, the built and natural landscapes
Tag Archives: wood
Another one from the SeaPeople project:
Alan Stanley has been building wooden boats all his life and is something of an institution at Chambers Wharf, where his workshop is located on the banks of Oare Creek. His workshop is a wonderful hands-on environment where people really get to grips with their material. Not a iPhone, computer, gigabyte, pixel or router in sight, just lots of tools and wood dust and some fantastic looking boats. (And that marvellous smell of freshly cut timber!)
I’ve done a lot of driving over the past couple of days, shooting in Southampton yesterday and all over Hertfordshire today.
On my way back today I drove past a wonderful long fence made of poles between a hop garden and the road. The fence goes on for the whole length of the field, about 100m I guess, and is a magnificently haphazard structure. I’ve driven past it frequently before now but it just so happened that today I was thinking about my years of assisting Michael Millar in London in the mid 80’s…
One of our regular jobs was a kind of photogrammetry, recording the elevations of buildings in Central London on on some occasions whole streets. We worked on a 1/2 plate Sinar (we used 1/2 plate because 5×4 was too small relative to the lens angle of the 90mm 5.6 lens, ie we could shoot much wider on 1/2 plate). After I finished processing the film, I printed each image big (about 1500mmx1000mm) on the ancient 1/1 plate DeVere enlarger and then if we were doing a whole street, Michael carefully cut them out and stuck them together to form a huge and very long panorama featuring every building perspective correct and square-on. I remember we shot a few of the streets in Chinatown like that, Wardour Street and Gerrard Lane are two that I remember. Anyway, I digress…
Whilst I was driving past this pole fence today, it suddenly occurred to me that it might be fun to shoot this in the same way. The sun was shining and it wasn’t going to be out for much longer so I seized the moment, did a U-turn, parked up and photographed it.
I am not convinced that it works but it was fun to do so what the hell – and it is a lovely fence anyway!
Coming from a land where most building is pretty new (and new does not always mean good!) and the few 17C and 18C buildings that do exist are regarded as ancient monuments, I have long harboured a fascination with the old architecture of my adopted homeland, Britain. Here ancient really does mean ancient. My exploration of the Cathedral over the last couple of years and more particularly it’s roof structures has led me to look more closely at other old timber structures in the county.
Tithe barns are an interesting case in point. They are uniformly old, most dating from the 13 or 14C and more interestingly they reveal their inner most secrets without any attempt to hide or disguise how they are put together. It’s all there and as been so for centuries.
Most tithe barns in this country are timber-famed structures, in contrast to the preference for stone on mainland Europe. I visited the Woolton Barn recently. The structure has had some more recent soft wood restoration but it is essentially a 15C oak structure with the two ends glazed where there would normally be timber cladding. This last feature makes the building very light (not a common feature in buildings of this sort) and enables it to be kept in use all year round.
I love the raw and sculptural quality of the timbers and the fact that they have remained doing their job for so long.
A short note on tithe barns in general: these structures were built throughout Europe to contain the 10% of produce that everyone was obliged to give to the church. They were usually located near a centre of activity like a Monastery, Abbey, Church or Cathedral.
Although all shot in colour, I have presented most of these as Black & White images as this emphasises the structure and because I increasingly feel that unless there is a clear visual or commercial imperative, there is little need for colour!
The next barn I look at will be an older 14C building with a slightly more complex structure and a very much darker interior. But it exists in it’s original location with pretty much all the original timbers in place.