Old Portsmouth – of ships and shapes. August 2012

We were staying in nearby Southsea for our son’s wedding, and a walk along the seafront to Old Portsmouth, Gun Wharf and the Historic Dockyard was a pleasurable inevitability!  From a photographer’s point of view, and particularly so with monochrome in mind, the fascination of the area is actually all about “ships and shapes”.

Gun wharf itself is a kind of commercial monstrosity!  Great fun though, even if the beer and food are very expensive!  At its heart though, and dominating the skyline from most vantage points is the magnificent Spinnaker Tower which I suspect is one of the most elegantly beautiful concrete structures in the UK.  More of this in the next blog, but it picks up and in a way summarises the shapes around it, boats, masts and rigging of all sorts, but inevitably with an overarching military emphasis.

Why is it that Royal Naval ships of war are so beautiful?  They have maybe some of Blakes “fearful symmetry” relating to the menace of the tiger; they certainly have a look of uncompromised super-efficiency; sinister yes, but their design honed and pared down by the need to move quickly and effectively and then do a job, they always seem to me to look supremely “fit for purpose”.  I remember reading in a boating magazine that on the whole if a boat design looks right, then it probably is – well, HMS Dragon, Edinburgh and Kent lined up alongside the dockyard look right, even though the purpose for which they are fit is so lethal and destructive.

HMS Dragon (6&7) in particular is closed in, slab-sided and “stealthy” in appearance.  I almost felt vulnerable pointing the camera in her direction – but no alarms sounded and no dockyard police seemed even to notice!  Contrast the expectant dinghies in “1” and the IoW ferry seen from above in 13 – 16.

9 & 10 were taken on the first level of the Spinnaker Tower and are included here because in black and white they become abstracted into a series of curves, lines and shapes (interrupted only by my feet which are there as evidence that I was prepared to stand on the glass floor and look straight down!

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