[Version 2 – I wasn’t satisfied with V1.]
We’re on a Francine photographic foray. [How’s that for alliteration?] We don’t often do this often but we’ve gone away for a few days in the UK sans Guillaume. Scary stuff. Not only scary stuff but Guillaume has been left to sulk in his cold, damp field after what has already been a long winter. Poor Guillaume! [Altogether: ahhhh!] This was a rational decision rather than an emotional decision. For two days away, we can stay in functional hotels for the price of the campsites and extra diesel required to tow Guillaume with us. Poor Guillaume! [Altogether: ahhhh!] I miss him. Another consideration is that it is sometimes difficult to exit a campsite before dawn, which landscape photographers have an irritating habit of wanting to do. So, hotels it is.
The first planned target for our lenses is at Crosby beach, just a spit above Liverpool. This rather industrial northwest chunk of the UK is a part of the country I usually avoid studiously, passing it as quickly as possible on the normally nightmarish M6, i.e. not very quickly at all. This time, we piled off the M6 to skirt Liverpool and find our target. Courtesy of some comprehensive signing in Crosby – thank you, Crosby – we arrived at about 1:00 PM. Furthermore, we arrived to find an unexpectedly free car park. Thank you again, Crosby.
Our first target was Another Place, an artwork consisting of a series of 100 statues of life-sized naked men planted in the sand along 3kms of Crosby beach. The statues stare west towards the setting sun, when the sun deigns to set at all in this part of the world, that is. Regrettably, they also stare west straight at a significant off-shore wind farm. So, cutting out the horizon in photographs is frequently a good idea. There may be 100 statues but they are stretched out along 3kms of beach. They are also at widely varying distances, up to almost 1km, out into this potential death-trap of an estuary – soft sand & mud, racing and changing tides, cockle-pickers nightmare kind of stuff typical of this coast. So Another Place is not a dense mass of statuary. It might look more impressive if it were, IMHO.
Actually, the 100 statues are almost identical – I thought they were identical, to begin with, until I looked them up on the good ol’ InterWeb – all being made from 17 similar casts of the artist himself, Antony Gormley. According to Mr. Gormley, the casts show varying degrees of tension. Right! So, what you’re actually looking at is 100 Antony Gormleys. Whilst that might strike me as being distinctly narcissistic, this is how it strikes Antony Gormley:
Another Place harnesses the ebb and flow of the tide to explore man’s relationship with nature. The seaside is a good place to do this. Here time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements and the prevalence of sky seems to question the earth’s substance. In this work human life is tested against planetary time. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body. It is no hero, no ideal, just the industrially reproduced body of a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe, facing a horizon busy with ships moving materials and manufactured things around the planet.
Well bugger me; all that complexity in 100 particularly simplistic statues, including varying degrees of tension which, I must say, I couldn’t detect. I’d call that pseudo-intellectual babble … but then, I am a self-confessed artistic numbskull. How on earth does the “prevalence of sky” “question the earth’s substance”, for Darwin’s sake? As for, “… human life is tested against planetary time”, there’s no contest; the entire history of the human race has lasted thus far less than the blink of a planetary eye. What test is needed? Judging by the way these very recently cast Antony Gormleys with varying degrees of tension are already encrusted with various forms of marine growth, they ain’t gonna last terribly long. With the encrustations, they reminded me of a sea monster, possibly from Doctor Who, but the name escapes me. I suspect this artwork was more impressive before the encrustations, when the statues were clean, too, but then, all those things are being tested. 😉
Antony Gormley seems to me to be the master of the pseudo-intellectual explanation. He is probably better known for his imposing work near Gateshead, the Angel of the North. The massive wings of the angel apparently are not dead straight but angle forward by ~3.5°. I understand Mr. Gormley explained this 3.5° angle of the wings thus:
… they are not flat, they’re about 3.5° forward and give a sense of embrace
I suspect that’s complete baloney, too; another pseudo-intellectual explanation of a physically necessary design. 3.5° is barely perceptible and probably gives a sense of bugger all viewed from most angles. However, imagine those 54m/177ft wide heavy wings being affixed directly to the angel’s back and being flat – dead straight. That would place one hell of a cantilevering force acting backwards on the angel, which might soon become a fallen angel. My guess is that the slight angle was necessary to balance the angel on its base and has sod all to do with any embracing.
But back to Another Place. Whilst I may be cynical about such things as works of art, once you get beyond the pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo, they certainly do provide an interesting photographic subject. We had fun with them for 90 minutes or so. Francine, of course, knows what she’s doing whereas I was just playing. I’d have played more except that firstly, I’d left the lens I really expected to need (17-55mm zoom) at home, and secondly, I discovered that my 300mm prime lens would no accept my filter adapter ring, courtesy of its built-in lens hood. Marvelous – well done, Franco! Fortunately, Francine had all the right gear so she managed to slow down the testing tide and waves [left] to get something a bit more artistic. I contented myself with a necessarily unfiltered contre jour shot [right] as I was leaving. [Note to self: I must practice packing.]
Of course, from a landscape photographer’s point of view, we really weren’t here at the correct time of day; the middle of the day is pretty much a no-no. I have a feeling we’ll be correcting that early tomorrow morning trying to capture the so-called blue hour before dawn. Oh joy!
Meanwhile, we’re off in search of something with a heartbeat and less intellectually taxing, Red Squirrels.