letter cutting, Photography

Cambridge Collection

I spent this Wednesday in Cambridge with a very lovely bunch of photography students (Hello! Yes – you are on the internet but not on Facebook!) and I took my humble camera (very poor by the standards of the equipment that was being toted around me that day!) to do a little work of my own. These were all originally colour images and have been modified in PhotoShop – there has been no editing of the content but just a black and white conversion, along with a small number of appropriate specific tonal balances to achieve a more concentrated effect. 

These first images were taken from the tower at Great St. Mary’s where you are rewarded by these excellent panoramic views only after climbing a hundred and twenty or so steep, cramped, spiral stairs, and a few minutes rest to gather your sensibilities! The view above shows  the very impressive facade of King’s College and it’s immaculately manicured lawns. I took a couple of close up images of the grass last year which can be found on my Flickr site. This is lawn maintenance for the criminally insane!

This shot shows the rooftops of Caius College and Gonville College with Trinity College and St. John’s College in the background. I really enjoy looking at buildings from above; their unseen gables, chimneys, spires, fire escapes, landings and hidden inspection points. I like to imagine these environments as secret topographies; realms where alternative lives are played out, only to run for cover when someone like me is watching!

Inside the church, as befits its claim to be the ‘University Church’ there are memorials and tributes to the great and the good (or at least the privileged and moneyed) in both simplicity and extravagance.

This elegant plaque does have an english translation from the Latin, but I deliberately avoided reading it (I usually read everything, much to Mrs. Lestaret’s annoyance!) to retain some of the asemic qualities it offered.

I was particularly drawn to this swash tail and it’s relationship to the V and A. It makes a very comfortable threesome.

I was particularly taken by this unusual character that I hadn’t come across before that I assume to be a ÿ. The whole area of diacritics is very exciting to me as a new ‘asemic explorer’ and this has started a whole new set of possibilities. But first I must learn some more about the subject as I feel very limited in my own language. Consider the character below. If anyone can shed any light on what this is, please get in touch.

There is a beautiful inscription almost directly opposite (but along way off) that shows some great examples of the ‘long s:’

Esteemed or efteemed? The ‘long s’ is derived from the formal roman and rather than attempt to do better than this and this, I will leave you to follow those links for more information. The wikipedia description is also very informative.

Bufinefs. I like the sound of that!

Back to more serious matters, especially relating to memorials and letter cutting, there is a story behind the image above. I don’t know what it is, but someone else may do. What was originally in the depressions around this memorial? Why are they no longer there? I have not seen other stones with these hollows before and surely they are deliberate recesses for brass/bronze ornaments?

I then began to investigate those stones that had become worn over time. I like the weathering of gravestones and the remnants of lettering left after a century or so of environmental abuse, but these represent the deliberate weathering by the repeated foot traffic by a few centuries of worshippers.

Some names desperately clung on to legibility, but alas, theirs was always a losing battle, albeit over a long period of time.

Beautiful textures of stone polished by centuries of unassuming abuse and the very last remnants of the craftsman’s chisel marks shown in the ‘a.’  Just how long will it take to erase this name?

The variation in line width takes a real hit in this inscription. How much longer before we can no longer make out what it says from the marks left behind?

This stone is set into the side of a tiny window about two-thirds of the way up the stairs of the tower. I love the sharpness of the ‘u/v’ in the word church, which gives the impression that this is original to the 1602 or 7 date.

I took a lot of images whilst I was there, especially of the sculptures outside the Fitzwilliam gallery (who I refuse to link to because of the jobsworth attitude of the woman who was in charge of the admissions desk when we got there.)  The gallery is really excellent, but beware of going in a group unless you have recorded every communication with them. Their security people are very, very efficient.

A note to the photography students: as I said at the start of this post, all of these images were originally shot in colour. I chose to show them here in monochrome because I felt that they worked better that way. As the photographer, I choose to present my work in the manner and format (in this case, web) that I wish, because I have that choice. Many purists (read professional photographers) would say that this is either wrong or deliberately misleading. I’m ok with that: I’ve been honest here in admitting these images have been digitally manipulated and have presented them with this disclaimer, in plain imitation of those who can create these effects (wrong word) by more traditional methods that require specialist knowledge, equipment and experience. Those who know me or are regular readers of this blog will know how much I value the craftsmanship in any artistic endeavour and I hope will recognise my  humble acknowledgment. Many of my recent students will only know me as a digital designer because of my teaching responsibilities that involve about 80% of my time within a digital environment.

I will finish with a straight shot then. From the east side of the tower you can look down on the marketplace. This shot sees the ecclesiastical extravagance of the university architecture against the gaudy temporary market awnings. I am rather pleased with this. It is a full frame shot with no digital manipulation, no cropping, no image adjustment, no enhancement. It’s what I saw.


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