I spent a little while a day or two ago tidying up some of my photo sets on Flickr – reassigning photos to sets, updating the content of sets, and so on. In particular, the set I call my best pics (a purely subjective title and certainly not all of whose content has been rated highly by others) had been a little neglected and in fact contained some items that I really didn’t like any more or just didn’t find as appealing as the items either side of them, plus some more recent shots that I was particularly pleased with hadn’t been added.
This photo was one that I decided to leave in the set as it’s one that I love just as much now as I did when I took it. It hasn’t been viewed very frequently so I decided to try to give it a little of the TLC I think it deserves by showcasing it here. Maybe this will become a regular feature of sorts – we’ll see.
The picture was taken in March 2009 when I attended a photography get-together in Oxford. It was a wonderful day out, and you can see a lot more photos by (and of) the participants here. As you might expect, we almost experienced sensory overload from the amount of majestic, historic architecture we saw in the course of the day, but as I often find is the case, it’s sometimes something a little more mundane that can make a more interesting picture.
You might well guess that this shot was taken inside a church, and you’d be right: it’s St Mary’s University Church. I like the way that even just showing parts of some objects – in this case with most of the background in very soft focus – can conjure up a clear sense of place. The way the light was falling on this pew also made it a more appealing choice: I find low-light photography VERY challenging and am often unhappy with the results. Yes, it’s something I need to work on and put a bit more effort and time into…
My eye was also drawn by the contrasts the scene offered. The battered, worn pew is a world away from the polished carved seating you find all over the place in many of Oxford’s other well frequented historic sites, and it is an excellent foil for the crisp, new-looking brocade of the cushion. The colours are another important source of contrast – the eye is clearly drawn to the cushion – and I did make the decision to tone down the saturation of the wood just a touch, though it really was only a minimal change that was necessary. I also wanted the detailed, regular pattern of the cushion to have the upper hand over the chaotic, random marks on the wood, though without losing any of that essential rough/smooth, random/carefully organized juxtaposition.
I did boost the overall light/dark contrasts and sharpness some more, because it’s a shot that screams out texture with the high relief of the velvety, silken cushion cover next to the splintered wood. I wanted it to be a tactile shot and for the visual element to help to convey sensations of other sorts.
Last but not least: the title “Cold comfort”. I wanted something that expressed the inherent contrasts I’ve just explained above, and I also love double meanings. I didn’t necessarily want to emphasize the negative tone of the term “cold comfort”, but if anyone else wants to include that element more prominently in their interpretation of the photo, then they’re welcome to do so.