Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Assignment 3.6 Munich Cathedral

One subject that will most likely be part of my final submission will be a church, the key question will be which one, Munich has 1'000's ranging from tiny chapels to the massive edifice of the Cathedral.  I have visited several churches during the past few weeks, some of which have featured in previous blog entries here and in my AoP blog.  For this particular entry I am going to examine the potential of the city cathedral for my assignment.  Known locally as the Dom, The Frauenkirche was built in the 15th century, although not fully completed until 1525.  It was very severely damaged in the war and much of what is visible today was actually constructed post 1945.  It now basks in the glory that its former head priest, the Bishop of Munich, is now Pope.

The Dom is one of the tallest buildings in Munich and is likely to remain so as there is now a ban on constructing high buildings within the city center to preserve some of the classic skyline.  The following picture was taken last November on a very clear day from the top of a nearby church, the Peterskirche.  Although very much a tourist shot it shows the size and structure of the Dom very well.  The tall building to the right is the Rathaus, Munich's town hall.

Seen from the main shopping street the cathedral towers over the city:

Inside the scale is still massive and even using a 17mm wide angle it is hard to convey the sheer size of the building - this is just one of the side areas.

From a photographers standpoint, the scale of the building becomes a problem, as it is very easy to lose the human element amongst the architecture, even photographing details requires much post processing as light levels are low and perspectives are never easy - always need to shoot up:

However, this is also a very well used and visited church.  Services are regularly held and the building is part of every visitors itinerary.  When thinking about use of such a building, praying and thoughtful contemplation come to mind, however, when I was there on a Saturday afternoon, most of the activity was tor groups and people just getting out of the streets for a breather

The church is wise to this and another use for the building is to raise money for the church by selling souvenirs to the masses, although this looked to be a slow day

Not the most attractive or inviting cathedral shop I have ever seen, although the temporary nature hopefully indicates that this is not the major mission of the church as it can seem to be elsewhere.

Beyond the aspects of tourism mentioned, prayer is clearly one of the principal uses for the church, the other being worship.  I do not want to photograph a service, I feel this would be disrespectful, however, one tradition in a catholic church that can yield good images and yet avoid intrusion is the lighting of candles to remember the departed.  I used a 200mm lens to take these and deliberately selected an exposure to bring out the colour of the candle light.  This means that the pictures are typically ISO 1600/3200 and so noisy

These photographs convey very well the spiritual aspect of the church at a human scale.  Another part of the church also provides for interesting photographs with similar lighting, this is a crypt under the main alter in which are buried the bishops and nobility of the city:

The lighting is very low and again high ISO and low aperture are needed, however, the way the room is lit is very beautiful and calming.  I spent around 20-30 minutes sitting quietly with my camera taking an occasional shot as the scene shifted with the inclusion of people.  It was also amusing to watch many people use flash to illuminate the crypt for there photo's losing the atmosphere that makes this such an interesting image.  As I sat there I noticed that people walking in and out would move from shadow to light as they intersected with a couple of small spot lights just to the right of the cross:

The first photo has yielded an almost contemplative scene, the woman seems to stand in light cast by the cross.  Another slightly different composition:

In this image the woman looks pensive (probably because of my camera), but also perhaps nervous of teh symbolism, not sure.  My final image from this visit is a variation on a theme I used in an earlier shot from the modern art gallery, that of people silhouetted in front of an art work

There are other more interesting churches in Munich, however, the Dom has the advantage of a high number of visitors making it more amenable to taking photographs that include people "using" the space created.

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