Ralph of Shrewsbury
Ralph of Shrewsbury (1329-1363), reclining on his tomb in Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 6 June 2015.

Looking at this photograph again this morning, just before posting it, I suppose it might initially appear frightening, with the viewer recognising some of the elements of a human face while being shocked by the apparent mutilations inflicted upon it.  I don’t usually photograph statues or other artworks (and I include graffiti as artworks) because they are the creations of others and I see little value in replicating others’ creativity.  I suppose I feel that such things speak for themselves.  But I visited Wells Cathedral specifically for this purpose the other day and, well, I’ll just see where things go from here.

This effigy was carved in the soft mineral alabaster, a form of gypsum, which has left it open to abuse (or should that be “use”?) by writers of graffiti over hundreds of years.  There are names and dates from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the defacing is thought to have started in the sixteenth century, when this tomb was moved from a protected location in the cathedral to its present easily accessible site – see details here.

This was an eminent man, a Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and then Bishop of Bath and Wells, with his headquarters here in this cathedral.  But looking at this I am reminded of the words of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) on the futility of human endeavour:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

These words are part of a poem thought to reflect on the discovery of a great pharaoh’s shattered statue in the deserts of Egypt.  Ozymandias, the king of all kings, is telling those kings that, great and all powerful though he is, all of his mighty works have amounted to nothing – and that their works will surely do the same.  Absolutely right!  The sole exception being of course FATman Photos, which will be around until at least last Thursday fortnight …

D800 with 50mm Nikkor used in DX format to provide 75mm; f1.4; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Contrast Harsh preset.


  1. If FATman Photos is destined to live forever, then I must remember to catch up with my comments before Thursday so that I can share a little bit of eternity too…


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