Local photographer Piers McEwan places the Spinnaker Tower in his sights in this reflective piece about one of Portsmouth’s best known landmarks.
Through a lens it’s an easy target. Obvious. Anyone could take its picture, right? And they do. Selfies with it, shots from the viewing platform, shots from below looking up to enhance its enormity. The shot where people put their fingers in the frame to make it appear as if they are holding it up. The one where you line up your schooner of pale ale or your Old Fashioned next to it, from a café below.
And, really, it’s just a tower, right? Photographs, taken daily by a breadth of visitors, will inevitably fade over time within historical hashtag banks. Perhaps they’ll be a hidden shot on someone’s fridge door or a forgotten day on a discarded memory card. Indeed, there are plenty of other towers in the world; ones that are bigger, better, more beautiful. Plenty of other tourist attractions vying for our undivided attention.
So why the fascination and why the photographs?
When I wake it’s there, squeezing itself through a gap in the blinds to invade my bleary-eyed view. When I walk to work, I catch its peak in my peripheral, tip-toeing over neighbouring buildings. And at dusk it’s still there, taking on a distinct hue as a fireball sun drops by the minute, before disappearing entirely.
It reflects a constant. A constant against all the things in our world so suddenly changing, without asking. A constant, unmoving, standing in opposition to our fast-paced go go go world I so often lose track of. And in that, it’s some form of reassurance I cling to. When I drive back to the city after time away and see it start to paint its silhouette onto the horizon line, I get that comfortable feeling in my belly, as if seeing an old friend. It’s become an anchor for me, guiding me home and reminding me of the need to sometimes slow down and just be.
Photography forces one to take stock and to find some kind of peace with the present moment and the unfolding events in our lives. It’s just you, the camera and your field of vision. All attention on the shot, the light, the background and the movement of one’s subject. And zero attention, for the most part, on distractions, worries or insecurities.
And this is why I take pictures of the obvious target, dressed in its mere steel and concrete. It’s not to emulate the viewfinder of countless other camera phones or to get the must-do shot that’s been done a million and one times. It’s because it’s more than just a tourist attraction to me. So it’s to look for her different moods, to spot a new angle of origin or to identify slight nuances in her appearance. Forever seeking the subtle changes in my constant.
Images by Piers McEwan.