Tuesday, May 08, 2007

People and Places

You can't beat a good post Bank Holiday moan. My contribution to the genre is that I am fed up to the back teeth with people. Let me rapidly reassure the few remaining friends that I have, that I don't mean them. I don't even mean chance acquaintances nor people I pass on the street. I don't mean football crowds or NHS managers, call centre operatives or able-bodied idiots who park in disabled spaces. No, I am fed up with pictures of people.

There is normally nothing I like better on a sunny afternoon than settling down on my yellow balcony with what used to be called "a picture magazine". Back in the old days these were represented by the likes of "Life Magazine" or "Picture Post". The modern-day equivalents are, I suppose, the weekend glossies that fall out of most daily and Sunday newspapers. When these first appeared back in the sixties they were reasonably anodyne things containing articles on the hedgerows of Devon or Hadrian's Wall Revisited. But, as the cult of celebrity has slowly taken over the minds, dreams and television screens of modern man (and woman), they have become nothing more than minor show-biz fan-mags.

Take, for example, the Guardian Weekend Magazine from the 5th May 2007 (this was one of the offending magazines I took to the yellow balcony over the Bank Holiday). First I flicked through it, then I chucked it in the bin, then I rescued it, then I did a mathematical analysis of its photographic content. Leaving aside advertisements - advertisers are free to use whatever image they want, I have no argument with that - there were 46 significant photographs in the magazine (I have left out of the analysis little header photos and that kind of thing). To undertake the analysis I devised five categories : people, places, food/drink, material objects, and others. (If you are muttering to yourself phrases like "get a life, Burnett" or "he really should get out more", keep your bloody opinions to yourself). The result of the analysis was as follows:

Percentage of total photographs devoted to :
People 50%
Places 2%
Food/Drink 20%
Objects 17%
Others 11%

In other words, every other photograph we see is a celebrity's face grinning at us. When not faced with Juliette Lewis or Penelope Cruz or Keanu Reeves or Gordon Ramsey (whoever they are) we are bombarded with images of Polenta Cakes (with rocket salad) or hemp and parsley pesto. Escape food and faces and the chances are you will be looking at a fancy chair or a stainless steel coffee table. Enough is enough. Give us back places. We want the Lincolnshire coastline, the stiles of Dartmoor, the snickets of Hechmondwike, and the forests of Scotland.

There is another Bank Holiday weekend just around the corner. Not to worry, I have bought myself a copy of the National Geographic in anticipation.

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