I lived in Durham for a year, and have visited since quite often, but, as I mentioned in a previous post, I couldn't remember ever seeing this view of the cathedral. Had Piper climbed a tree in order to get this shot?
I asked my Durham Correspondent to investigate for me. It turns out that a tree (or, rather, trees) is the answer, though not in the way I'd surmised. This is the view from 40 South Street and it must have been taken before the trees grew on the river bank. Here's the same view now:
As you can see, you can glimpse the tops of the towers, but everything else is obscured by foliage. As my Correspondent remarks, while trees are a Good Thing, there is a case to be made for judicious pruning at times, and this is one of those times.
On the Tate website you can see several other Piper photos of the cathedral. The one chosen is the most arresting because of the very close cropping, and the use of a telephoto lens which foreshortens the image, creating an intriguing series of geometric shapes.