May 19, 2011
I recently went on a photography holiday in the beautiful Corbières mountain range in southern France, close to Perpignan. The course was great – fine food, lovely accommodation and a great, helpful host and teacher in Andrew Whittuck, aka Photo Holidays France – so too the landscape, all rugged gorse-covered hills, needle-straight Roman avenues and sleepy, stony, sunny towns decked in finery.
But there was one tiny problem. The towns aside, numerous landscapes were littered with pylons. Trails of them climbed up elegant peaks; entire platoons snaked through vintage valleys. So many times, I had the perfect shot, save for the protruding pylon or drooping cable wholly ruining it. And, as I don’t have Photoshop, I couldn’t just edit them out on my laptop either. By the trip’s conclusion I was almost dementedly angry, my temper relieved only by dreams wherein I fantasised about these electrical behemoths being kicked away by a mammoth camera-god.
Back home, I went to do what all angry people do: log onto the internet, and seek out equally irate strangers, so we could be stressed and bitter together. Trouble is, there don’t seem to be any such people. The best I’ve found is Bill Bryson bemoaning the proliferation of pylons in various UK corners – but not with a photographic loathing. Then there’s a woman with a phobia of pylons. It’s one thing hating them, as I do, but quite another to say things like “I think they’re possessed. You’re all looking in entirely the wrong place for the Anti-Christ – it’s name is National Grid.”
As for fellow camera-wielders, instead of sweeping resentment, I’ve found regular adoration. Urban Photography Art claims that “pylons can be a great subject and can make absolutely stunning pictures with a little help from some photography art skills”. But that’s nothing compared to The Gorge, a website with a subpage aiming to provide photos of pylons in every country. That was it’s original aim, anyway; now it provides an array of pylon extras from “web trivia for casual surfers to a study of structure for engineering students”. There’s also, faintly worryingly, “information for young boys who like pylons (and their relieved parents)”.
And all this pylonic passion has me re-considering. Maybe I’ve got pylons all wrong? Maybe they’re not a blight on beautiful landscapes, but rather a beautiful modern twist, a 20th century landscape juxtaposition of the headiest aesthetic?
Hmm. Somehow I’m not quite convinced yet…