July 5 2011: Kodacolor Photograph of Coventry Cathedral (1963)

One of the odd things about photography is that it is a medium that becomes more rather than less interesting as it dates and falls into obsolescence. This 1963 shot of Coventry Cathedral is a good example on several levels, with the physical form of the picture and its muted colours adding one layer of interest, and the way its representation of the iconic building (of which there are hundreds of images, all much alike given that the Cathedral itself changes only slightly, if at all, over time) is secondary to the line of now obsolete vehicles parked in the road beside it.

Often, there’s a sense that the photographers of buildings and landscapes try to remove the evidence of human or fleeting presences, aiming for a kind of timeless and archetypal representation of place. Yet years later, it’s precisely those images into which those fleeting presences have intruded that offer the unfamiliar view capable of catching the attention and giving life to the image. Ironically, the attempt to create something timeless is often the very thing that renders a photograph of little interest to the future.


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