I've even been known to draw fence posts. For the Flickr group pool, 'Drawing Close to Nature', which I love but unfortunately don't contribute to as often as I'd like.
Back in the winter, over Christmas, when we had those amazing crystalline air frosts and ethereal morning mists followed by cerulean blue skies, I also collected a number of photos of fences and posts, with a view to a post that never happened. I tend to think blogging, especially of photos, shoud be seasonal, topical, immediate; once the moment is past it's too late, but why? It is often quite interesting to be suddenly taken back to another season.
So what is a post? It is a node and and a nexus, a support and a pin, it helps to define, delimit and enclose - and if you are a cow with a persistent itch, you can scratch your back on it...
Which provides one connection point to the subject of photographic typologies (there are others, stay with me if you will ...). It's to do with rhythm and pattern and markers, of containing things within fields, and with finding what you're looking for, to scratch an itch.
Cara Phillips' criticism about typologies giving work 'the illusion of cohesion and intellectual rigor', which I think I was not alone in thinking initially sounded somewhat intimidating and snobbish, does perhaps have a point, (though I'd be the first to admit to being one of those 'people who have no real conceptual thinking in their work'; I'm a blogger who does it for fun for goodness sake, not a conceptual artist or documentary social commentator...).
I suppose the possibly spurious sense of meaning would derive from the sense of order, of pattern and rhythm, qualities which, as a species, we are constantly seeking to give a sense of meaning in a world that sometimes threatens not to have any. The appeal of the typology is the appeal of the stamp album, the bird book, the wallchart of flags of the world, of the collection of whatever, variations on a theme, things the same but differing, and of things labelled and marked. And, as Phillips also points out, it's quite difficult to avoid reference to typology in photography, the medium lends itself to it, that's what it's always been used for, often without any artistic or aesthetic motive, simply as a utilitarian record, or sometimes for more sinister purposes. But it satisfies us aesthetically because, I suppose, we like order.
A collection of things, too, often contains an implicit narrative. I remember years ago seeing and being fascinated by pictures of different kinds of barbed wire, which, apparently is much prized by certain collectors , who understand its history, often military, and its associations. The electric fencing many of these posts support has replaced barbed wire - though some of those I've shown pertain to large square wire mesh, to enclose a small and unusual paddock of sheep, or chain link, to seal off someone's residential property, hence the red 'Propriété privé' sign in the previous collection. To contain and restrain cattle, one strand of electric wire is enough, sheep, agile and heavy fleeced, are less easily discouraged from wandering, and human's who wish to keep other humans off their patch resort to the more forbidding chain link. Electric fencing is, on the whole, a gentler and more environmentally friendly solution than barbs; it can be powered by a small solar panel -though it rarely is, more often a portable rechargeable battery - smaller animals, and people, can pass freely and safely under or over it, and though Molly has occasionally fallen foul of a stray strand, and great has been the screaming and shuddering that ensues, it is nevertheless less damaging than the torn skin and blood poisoning that barbed wire can cause. Now, she seems to hear the tell-tale electric pulse, and give it a wide berth. In some of the pictures, the posts are wound about not with wire but with blue bailer twine. This product, ubiquitous in the agrarian landscape, is often used as a makeshift boundary for the cattle, for example along the tracks where they are driven from place to place; they seem to see the electric blue line as real electric wire, and, at least for a short time, can be fooled into not pushing against it. Sometimes, on a foggy, monochrome Brittany day, a line or squiggle of the turquoise twine is the brightest thing in the landscape.
Electric fancing has also replaced the child labour that, within living memory, was used to keep watch over the animals.
Typologies often deal with man-made objects, in isolation ( check out Germans Bernd and Hilla Becher, I tried to work them into this but couldn't really without unacceptable digression, that's a Wiki link, and there's also a good article here, from an exhibition of their work at the Tate Modern). But I find what appeals about the fence posts is that they seem to provide a transition, a conciliation, between the natural, organic forms and textures of the wood, and of the lichens and fungi that grow on them, and the human intervention in the landscape which uses them to demarcate, contain and enclose. Often the timber around here is chestnut, split along the grain rather than sawn, like the chestnut rail fencing that the young Abraham Lincoln is said to have spent his youth making, and the random roughness and irregularities of the wood, the grain and lines and knots, the peeling bark left on it, are offset by the geometry, the lines and circles, of the wires and the ceramic resistors attached to them.
So, there you are, from looking closer at something as banal and unremarkable as the humble fence post, I seem to have learned quite a lot, and some previously neglected photos have seen the light of day. Thanks to everyone who left thoughtful comments and observations, and got me reflecting and looking. Perhaps my conceptual thinking has even come on a bit! I'll keep you posted if I have any more insights...