Saturday, 6 October 2012

Pugin's Stained Glass Windows

I was wandering around Brighton (on the south coast of England) with my camera back in April this year when I decided to have a look around inside a Church that I'd never been in before. The church in question was Saint Paul's in West Street and I was stunned by it's highly decorative interior and beautiful windows. A couple of ladies were replacing the flower displays within the church and I asked them if it was ok to take some photographs and they replied that I could. So I wandered around, clicking away whilst trying not to get in the way of any parishioners or other visitors and after 45 minutes thanked them, said goodbye and left the building. When I eventually got home I fired up my PC, uploaded the days shots and set to work processing everything. I was very pleased with the end results and as an afterthought decided to email the shots to the church whilst thanking them for the opportunity and much to my surprise they replied. In fact they liked the shots so much they said they had put them on display on the computer in the Narthex (The Narthex is the entrance or lobby area, located at the end of the nave, at the far end from the church's main altar) for all to see. And that I thought was that....

On Tuesday the 2nd October (just a few days ago) I received an email from Fr Mark Lyon of St Paul's. He mentioned my "wonderful HDR photographs" and said if it was ok by me and with my permission they'd like to use some on their new welcome boards going up in the Cloister. He then asked me if i'd be able to take some of their Stained Glass windows as 2012 marks the 200th Anniversary of the birth of the famous Architect Augustus Pugin and that Saint Paul's Church is host to probably the largest collection of Pugin designed stained glass windows (in one location) in the country. He said that they were producing a leaflet detailing the history and story associated with the Stained Glass in S. Paul's and would like to include some photographs and in his own words went on to say "Unfortunately the photographs we have tried to take ourselves, have not come out as well as we would have hoped, and thus would like to see if you would be willing to take some photographs of the windows." But there was catch...and it went like this. "The only other slight problem is we are holding a lecture by Lady Wedgewood on 20th October 2012 @ 3pm on Pugin and his contribution to architecture in particular the stained glass, and would like these leaflets to be available for then - time thus is of the essence.  In addition we would like to have the photographs on display on the computer in the Narthex, and to be able to use them in an updated history of the Church booklet and as part of our welcome boards in the cloister." Well, I loved the idea but was concerned about it for several reasons. First of all I only use a small digital compact camera, nothing flashy. Secondly Stained Glass windows are not the easiest things to photograph, they are lit by natural light from behind, tend to glare from lights inside churches etc. And lastly what if I said yes and then I fail to come up with the goods? So I thought i'd sleep on it...

The following day I phoned Fr Mark (he'd given me his phone number in the email). I explained that I was merely an amateur and that I didn't know if I'd be able to achieve what was required. He very kindly replied that if I was willing to "give it a go" they'd be more than happy to try me out as they loved my previous photographs that I'd taken of the church. I said that I could go down that afternoon seeing as time was of the essence and asked if they had any means of me getting up higher to shoot the main large windows from a better angle. "We've got a tower" came his reply, "we have somebody that comes in for maintenance, I'll give him a call and see if he can put it up for you."

And so a couple of hours later I found myself walking into Saint Paul's with a small digital compact camera fixed to a large tripod and a pocket full of batteries. Fr Mark greeted me instantly and we talked briefly about what was required, what his thoughts were regarding the boards and leaflets etc and which windows he wanted me to shoot. The maintenance man asked me where I wanted him to erect the tower ... I had no idea. A minute or so of rapid thought and I asked them f it would be ok to have it at the far end of the aisle which would enable me to get up near the elaborate and large "Great West Window" which was high above the entrance to the church. So whilst that was being built I proceeded to capture the various windows by Pugin that were placed around the North & South aisles, five large double paneled windows on each side. Forty five minutes later I'd got them all "in the can" and had also managed to shoot the enormous "Great East Window" from ground level within the Chancel. It was then time to scale the tower whilst trying to look like I knew what I was doing. I got to the top (which was approximately 15 feet or 4.5 meters off the ground) and set up the tripod, the tower swayed slightly. This was going to be interesting. I started to shoot different parts of the window, I couldn't move about too much up there and found out quickly that my angles and choices were severely restricted. It also came to my attention that each time I hit the shutter release button I held my breath and froze in an attempt to keep the tower from wobbling. I eventually got back down and resisted the urge to kiss the ground, thanked them all very much and said I'd be in touch. As I exited the building I sighed with relief, the shots were in the camera. Now all I had to do was process them.

After a few days working on the shots they were completed. Today I went back into town and handed them over to Fr Mark who, after a quick inspection was delighted with them. So I thought I'd share a few of the "Great West Window" photographs here with you. And here they are...

And on a final note here's the information once again regarding the free talk by Lady Wedgewood on Pugin's Stained Glass Windows. The talk will be at 3.00 p.m. Saturday 20th October 2012 at Saint Paul's Church in West Street, Brighton, England.
Pugin PDF Poster

For more information contact:
Canon R S Fayers SSC 01273-727362
or the Church Office 01273-203231