01.07.12, Week 46: Nostalgia for Typewriters

by pbnb

The friend that I visited in Sheffield last week came to stay at mine for a few days and, as I live relatively near Lacock we decided to visit Lacock Abbey. Unknown to me before I arrived there, Lacock Abbey was home to Henry Fox Talbot who is credited with making the earliest known surviving example of a photographic negative in 1835 by taking a picture of the oriel window in the abbey’s south gallery. For obvious reasons, therefore, the abbey has a particular resonance for me. I did take a picture of the oriel window in question whilst I was there, but when it came to sorting through the images, I preferred the one above. Unfortunately, I think the typewriter is too modern to have been used by Henry Fox Talbot himself.

I’m not sure what causes it, but I always feel a strong sense of nostalgia with certain products that are no longer used and are now technologically defunct. Mechanical typewriters are one of these items, and straight razors, with their accompanying accessories, are another. I wish computer keyboards still looked like the keyboard above; the enamelled letters within their stainless steel rings are so much more attractive than the plastic keys that we use contemporarily. In fact, I have just had a quick search on the internet, and it appears that there is a conversion kit for mechanical typewriters that allows them to be used as a USB keyboard. I think I’ve just found the latest addition to my ‘projects that I might do one day if I have time and can be bothered’ list.

Anyway, back to the picture. I was shooting in speed priority setting in order to get a consistent shutter speed because any other setting tends to lead to blurring whilst indoors. Unfortunately, this meant that the camera chose to use an aperture of f/2.8 for most of the images in order to allow enough light in at a speed of 1/80 sec. I say unfortunately because it creates a narrow depth of field in the images, which isn’t always desirable. In this case, however, I actually like the narrow depth of field that draws the viewer’s attention to the centre of the keyboard. Taking the picture diagonally also allows it to have an in focus sweep across the keys, rather than a centre block of in focus keys if it had been taken front on.

I’m not usually very good at cropped compositions that don’t show the whole of a product, I end up feeling that I’m missing parts out or that it looks wrong. I feel that I have bucked that trend with this image though, as the cropped format actually works quite well with the narrow depth of field. I like that the rows of keys run diagonally across the frame because they take up the vast majority of the picture, rather than only the central portion. The fact that they are in rows also draws one’s eyes across the whole of the frame, rather than focusing on a particular part.


Following on from last week’s post about How to Destroy Angels (HTDA), I’ve been listening to Nine Inch Nails (NIN) quite a lot since then. The music is quite similar, which is not surprising considering that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross write for both bands, but Reznor does the vocals for NIN instead of his wife Mariqueen Mandig in HTDA. If anything, NIN’s music is a bit more grungy and heavier than HTDA’s, which tends to focus on more beat-orientated music. I much prefer Reznor’s vocals, particularly on the dystopian concept album, Year Zero, which is supposedly being produced as a television miniseries through BBC American and broadcast on HBO. If you’ve listened to HTDA upon my recommendation and are partial to something a bit darker, giving Nine Inch Nails a listen would be well worth your time.


      • Date taken: 30.06.12
      • Aperture: f/2.8
      • Speed: 1/80 sec
      • ISO: 800
      • Focal length: 32mm