I was attracted to this angel hovering above us during a recent tour of La Madelaine church given by one of the priests. He explained the theologically androgynous nature of angels had always posed a problem for artists, who generally have insisted on “sexing” them either as male or female. The (unfortunately anonymous) creator of this one seems to have hit the spot in terms of keeping sex out of the equation.
What attracted me was the definitively ethereal nature of the creation, which beautifully speaks to the spirit nature of the subject. That said, another artistic feature which is non-theological has been the depiction of angels with wings, gowns and harps: a Hallmark Christmas card rendition reflecting non-scriptural traditions going back to medieval times. This artist has rendered the wings and the gown, but thankfully not the harp.
However, I forgave the artistic licence and enjoyed the formless, floating image of peace and protection that was so successfully depicted in chicken wire. The element that most touched me in this sculpture is the face, which is so delicately rendered in front of the right “wing”. The angel seems to look down on us with no visible expression, but with a tilt of the head, which says, “I will protect you”.
Art Imitating Art
In this case, I accept that it is somewhat pretentious to qualify my image of this work as “art”. I claim it nevertheless, because it is, in fact, one of very few photographs that I took in the Madelaine, the others being plainly architectural, rather than spiritually sensitive.
I cropped and rendered the colour treatment to be “vivid” in order to enhance the focus on the angel, rather than its surroundings. I also enjoy the happenstance of the blurring of the gown and the right wing, which was a function of the wide aperture setting. It seems, in my imagination, to be the beginning of the disappearance of the angelic apparition.
Being part of a walking tour, I only had a minute to set up and photograph the art piece above our heads. Out of respect for the place, flash was out of the question, so a speed boost to 6400 was required. Even so, with aperture priority, the diaphragm flipped to f 2.8 and the speed to 1/50th second.
“Reach” was fine, thanks to the zoom, which only needed 95mm of 200mm to frame reasonably tightly on the angel hanging from the enormous ceiling. That said, the vibration reduction function was fully called for to enable a workable image. In thinking about that, were I to reshoot the image, I would also try with no VR, just in order to create more blur and more of an ephemeral look to the scene.
Finally, I did use the monopod, angled sharply to enable a high shot, since my camera was mounted on a fixed plate, rather than a ball head.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G,
Focal Length: 95mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Shutter Speed: 1/50s
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: -0.1 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 6400
Mounted on monopod
We are promised an innovative crèche this year at the Madelaine, which traditionally invites local artists to express their individualistic expression of the Christmas story. I shall certainly return to see what transpires and perhaps to be inspired myself once again.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015 All Rights Reserved