Monday, April 03, 2006

Like a ton of bricks

In addition to photographing people, I like taking photos of old buildings. I've tried to take full photographic advantage of my location in central Europe by photographing its immense collection of stone and brick buildings. While I could usually be seen strolling through village castles and ruins snapping away, recently I discovered the brilliant textures and myriad shades of rusty reds in the buildings in the West Midlands region of England.

I was in the Birmingham area for wedding photography, so I decided to explore the relatively undiscovered town of Walsall and its environs. I have never seen so many brick buildings in one place in my life. 95% of all buildings in this region are made of brick. Even the new malls and shops are made of brick (though not as nice to photograph as the old weathered British brick buildings).

Here are some examples and a few comments:


A tricky thing about photographing England is the weather. It is often gray and dreary year-round. Even if the sky is an ugly gray, you can stick a tree in the composition as I did in the 1st photo. I had to expose for the bricks to get that rich red. In doing so the sky went almost pure white. The next two pics I took just after a rain storm. I had ducked into the Highgate Ales pub (2nd pic) to get out of the rain and have a pint (I love my job!). When a few rays of sun peeked out after the cloudburst, I set out once again to capture the now rainsoaked bricks. The hues and textures were beautiful.

I'm really amazed that one region can be so brick crazy. I guess it all boils down to what your resources are and how you utilize them. Living in Prague, I see almost no brick buildings. There is a tendency in Prague for buildings to be made of stone (the oldest ones), or with brick covered with plaster and paint. The few bare brick buildings in the Czech lands are dull gray and dusty red, whereas West Midlands brick buildings seem to have quite a variety of shades of red. Maybe it's the clay used, I don't know. But it certainly grabbed my attention on my first day in Walsall.

The last photo is a modern structure. Yes, you guessed it: we now have the origin of the expression 'built like a brick shithouse.'

NEXT BLOG: A bacchanalian soiree of real ales and fish and chips


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