Monday, 12 May 2014

All This Useless Beauty

"What shall we do with all this useless beauty?" - one of the more pertinent questions posed by Mr Declan McManus aka Elvis Costello. I understand that the song was inspired by a visit to an art gallery in Florence, but you don't have to go to Italy to find beautiful things, to wonder what they are for and, indeed, to wonder what it is that makes them beautiful.

King's College Chapel in Cambridge is universally regarded as beautiful, but finding new ways to glimpse and appreciate that beauty is no easy matter. It just so happens that on the opposite side of King's Parade stands a wonderful independent shop known as Nomads, a veritable Aladdin's cave of goods from distant lands. The Chapel reflected in the shop window presents a blend of cultures which, to my eye at least, is beautiful.

One of the characters in Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" believes our purpose in life is to enjoy the world that we inhabit. What she actually says is,  "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." I hope I seldom do.

It's that granite boulder again! Peter Randall-Page's work "Between The Lines" has been bugging me for years. So here's another attempt to capture some of its mystery, this time using one of the odd photo-enhancement features on my camera - in fact it's the only time I've ever used it!

Some of the buildings that make up Downing College are architecturally clear and balanced but just a little bit boring. In places though the formality and precision are being broken down by the ageing process and the intrusion of Mother Nature. And there's that colour purple again.

Formality and precision can be created by nature too. 
"Nature is the most beautiful thing in the world. You can show the beauty, illustrate it, but it is never the real beauty–very far from it. We don’t know how beautiful nature really is. We can only guess." - Andre Kertesz, photographer.

But how do you account for this? Just raindrops on an old lamppost. It made me stop and stare for a few seconds so I thought it should be worth a photo.

The shot above was one of those that came out drenched in sickeningly rich colour, the result of slight underexposure on an overcast and humid afternoon. A certain amount of fiddling the results was required! This is the original colour picture sandwiched with a sepia version of the same shot and blended to give the picture above. I can't say it was what I was aiming for as I don't recall ever seeing anything like it before. A happy accident.

And finally just a reminder that some people are completely oblivious to the colour of the sky...

Take care.


  1. I wonderful meander with, as usual, some stunning photographs. Alas, our wisteria was butchered last year and has barely survived!

  2. An inspiring group of pictures. So often we just snap them without thinking.

  3. Wow! These are beautiful photographs! Useless beauty indeed!

  4. Wonderful looking artsy photos. Yep, the kid with his phone. Their world rests in the palm of their hand.

  5. The reflection photo is so rich. Love it! Poor guy in the last photo, oblivious to such beauty. On his phone, I assume.

  6. Your reflections of Kings College Chapel are definitely a capture of beauty John :) love the colour purple in all its shapes and forms, the sepia image is just fabulous.... You did good :)

  7. John, you nailed it once again. What an eye for beauty you have, and what a place to find manmade and natural beauty you live in. Thanks for this special post and series of photos.

    AND, I appreciated the link you provided to the ceramic artist's explanation of her work. I didn't probe her pages deeply enough to find that myself.

  8. So much beauty in common things but am blown away by the inspiring capture of architecture and reflections at King's College. What a wonderful eye you have, John.

  9. All this useless beauty to feed our souls:)

  10. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.......I love most of what you have captured.

  11. What fine photos. The top photo seems to reflect butterfly wing patterns to my eyes.The regal wisteria softens the stone entrance. Raindrops make your subject pop. The lone tree shot in the garden is fantastic -- I'm glad you fiddled with it! -- barbara


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