I do like a nice bench photo. At least, the sort of bench that you tend to find scattered around the parks and cemeteries of Britain. A solid wooden construction that’s been exposed to the elements for years, sopping wet for most of the winter and, if we’re lucky, baked by sunshine in the summer. It gets covered in leaves, and now the cracking wood is carpeted in lichen – flakes of blue-grey and green, maybe with a bit of moss in the corners.
On that level alone, they make fascinating objects full of texture and tone. Despite being artificially placed in a landscape they never look completely out of place unless they’re very new, because nature gets going pretty quickly in its attempt to get rid of them.
But I also like bench photographs because of the mystery they create. Someone put a bench there because they thought people would want to sit and look at something. In a photograph of a bench there is a suggestion perhaps, that whatever was behind the photographer is better to look at than what’s behind the bench filling up the frame. The surroundings might hint at what is on offer but you never know.
I see it as a sort of reverse Rückenfigur – rather than placing the viewer into an established scene with an existing point of view, I want to invite them to come and have a sit down, and see for themselves what might be on offer. But maybe that’s just me. For more mystery, look here.