Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Trials Of Photography


So if you are one of those people who go week at the knees at the mention of trousers or prefer to cover the legs of your tables and chairs in case they induce lascivious thoughts in the minds of gentlemen callers you had better stop reading now.

Now we have lost those of delicate sensibility I can explain. Todays log (unfortunate word given the circumstances) is about the difficulty of photographing in Gentlemen's Public Toilets. Let me explain.

I had taken my young menace, eight year old Master Blink, for an outing to Norwich Castle Museum. From Ancient Egypt to Norman life, natural history to modern art, Norwich Castle Museum houses a huge range of displays - including the largest collection of ceramic teapots in the world.

During the visit we stopped off in the cafe for a cup of tea and a bun (My bun was fine but the menace's was worthy of a place in one of the archaelogical displays).

As a consequence I afterwards went with the menace to the public toilet. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the museum in conjunction with Messrs Twyford had arranged for different artists to illustrate both the Urinals and the W.C.s. They were stunning. I must photograph these I thought and instantly whipped out my pocket digital camera.

I then discovered the first difficulty of photographing in Gentlemen's Public Toilets; you have to wait for the automatic flush to get rid of the yellow water (if you understand me) in the bottom of the urinal. I had not realised that it took so long between flushes. Finally it flushed and I focused my camera and waited for the flash to charge and at last I was able to take the photograph shown below.

It was then that I came across the second difficulty in photographing in Gentlemen's Public Toilets; I become aware that someone else has entered the room and is standing behind me.

I turned around and find there is a father clutching his five year old son giving me the kind of suspicious look that a Customs Official gives someone getting off the plane from Columbia who claims to be a talcum powder salesman with samples.

He does not say anything but makes a strange growling noise in the back of his throat. I can see he believes me to be some kind of pornographer hanging around the toilets waiting to photograph his son and heir in the act of answering the call of nature.

There is nothing one can say in this circumstance. Believe me. I know. I thought of a hundred things and they all seemed, somehow, inadequate. I briefly wished I had availed myself of a flickr badge identifying me as photographer general of washrooms, toilets and commodes to Her Majesty The Queen or somesuch.

Meanwhile indignant father was turning red.

So I did what any Englishman, in whom flows the blood of Kings and heros, would do. I made my excuses and left. Quickly. All the while the young menace, Master Blink, wailed "Aren't you going to take any more photos Daddy"

So I will have to pay another 5.95 to return another day to photograph the other four. But I am going to go prepared. I have printed out a notice that reads


which should give me time for the automatic flush, allow the flash of my camera to charge, keep out vigilante parents and let me to take my photographs

When I got home I told the memsahib, Mrs Blink, what had transpired. She was, to say the least, unimpressed and when I asked her if she would go the next day to photograph the Ladies' Public Toilets for me she refused. Point blank. Just like that. And that is the third difficulty of photographing in Public Toilets; there are no girls of true spirit left these days.

Decorated Urinal, Norwich Castle Museum

No comments: