Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Shadows abound

A long time ago I absorbed the idea that photographs with a lot of shadow were a bad thing. The idea was, I suppose, that the shadow obscured the subject and there wasn’t much point in a photograph in which half of the frame was a vaguely legible black hole. There’s something in that, but it’s not the whole story.

For one thing, shadows exist. A photograph with a lot of shadow can be an accurate reproduction of reality, and there’s something honest about that. I was reminded of this fact when looking through my images the other day and coming across this one of the Market House in Ross-on-Wye, built in around 1650 at the top of the hill occupied by the town’s centre. You can imagine me walking along the street, struck (yet again) by the beauty of the pink-tinged Herefordshire sandstone and the way in which the sun’s rays illuminate and warm the side wall of the Market House. As I paused to look, I became aware too how the light and shadow threw the stonework into relief so that I could really appreciate its appearance: the worn stones of the arches and the pier holding them; the coursed but rather rough blocks of the middle parts of the wall; the smoother ashlar blocks further up – clearly the gables and roof were renewed at some point. Then you can imagine me leaning against the shop to my left and waiting for a gap in the traffic and for a moment when most of the passing shoppers were enveloped in shadow.

Later there world be time to admire the clock tower, which Pevsner says is probably early-18th century. Maybe that is when the roof was altered too. Or was the change made as early as 1671, when the building was said to have been ‘newly erected’. Relevant to this period is the stone roundel, between the two windows, which has a portrait of Charles II on it. This sculpture was recut in 1959, but presumably goes back to the king’s reign (1660–1685). It’s a drawback of my contrasty picture that you can’t see the details in this carved roundel, but I went back later and took another one, as a reminder that you can see things in more than one way.

1 comment:

franzjosef said...

As someone who is an amateur photographer on the one hand (although I was about to take it seriously as a profession after achieving my best results in the various subjects of photography during my career in Fine Arts) and on the other hand, and as a lover of the architecture, take pictures of hundreds of buildings in an attempt to compile the buildings that fit in my favorite styles, my thoughts about the shadows in the photos collide with each other ... As "artist" I like to play with the volumes, especially those that occupy the shadows within the photograph. If what I want is to "catalog" buildings ... I certainly prefer that there are no annoying shadows, that all the details and adornments be seen, that distances be appreciated, as well as the textures ... In those moments I hate the strong light and the shadows (but of course, I live in Madrid, Spain, where the sunlight can be excessive and where the cloudy days are rather few.) What for you in Britain would be described as a "splendid day" I would consider as "another damn sunny day" myself).

In your photograph, which showss a very open plane, that shadow is perfect since it not only occupies part of the building, it also occupies all the pavement, and shows enough of the arches and windows to give information about the building, and even hides a little people! (So good you waited for the right moment to take it!).