Lamenting little fences
Fences have become tall. Too tall. There was a time when fences were built small. I’m sure you’ve seen one. It might be timber, palings painted white or uprights strung with a criss-cross of wire. Little fences are sometimes brick, three hands high, punctuated by small turrets with one housing a letter box. Sometimes a little fence marries a garden. Sometimes a garden is simply enough on its own.
As I ride, I look around. Where fences are small, my eye has space to stretch. There is depth where near and far, light and shade, short and tall, mingle into a complex celebration of the ordinary. The view is not always beautiful but it’s often interesting; more interesting than a six-foot fence that funnels life into a narrow view.
I lament the passing of little fences where lives lay open and front yards ran free.
I wrote these observations some weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been collecting photographs of little fences seen on my regular rides. Compiling a collection of photos was an interesting experience.
I found quite a few little beach bungalows with their low-rise fences retained. I was encouraged to see them. However, I found myself experiencing a peculiar paradox. Stopping to take photos on the footpath of my bike in front of the fence, I became very aware of the resident’s privacy. I didn’t want to cross any boundaries in capturing images of the little fence. Typically, I directed the camera along the footpath, avoiding the house (unless it was obviously unoccupied). There were some fences I would have loved to photograph but I didn’t even stop because I felt the responsibility of discretion.
In times where large fences are designed to ‘secure’ a property, an irony emerges.
Little fences, where lives lay open and front yards run free, offer a different type of protection, one seeded with respect.
So, here is my collection of images celebrating little fences. First though, let’s begin with a not-so-little fence.