Black and white corner buildings

In a few earlier posts about my father’s collection of old black and white photos, I compared one of my own recent images of a similar structure in the part of Australia where I live. But today I’ve chosen a photo I took in 2015 when I was in Barcelona marvelling at the arty buildings in the Eixample district. I took many photos of this photogenic city, but there is one which sort of reminds me of a picture from the 1940s taken in Nairobi, Kenya. Both are sandstone-coloured buildings on a corner with a crowned short tower; in Kenya it’s a dome, in Spain it’s a tempietto.

The two buildings are roughly early twentieth-century. The Spanish Casa, originally built in 1854, was remodelled in 1905. The other photo shows the Khoja Mosque in what was Government Road, Nairobi, Kenya.  Across the street I can make out the Bombay Boot Bazaar (if I zoom right in), which confused me until I did a web search for images of the same building, and I ended up in Nairobi! It seems it was a business run by an Indian in Kenya.

 

Is the old photo any poorer than the newer one? The writing on the buildings is not as legible in the 1942 image, the organic motifs sculpted on the Casa are more defined than the individual bricks and decorative parts of the mosque, and faces in the newer photo are more identifiable. I like the distinct individual clouds in the old photo sky, while the new sky appears cloudless but, without a visible blueness, it seems glary. (It was clear, a beautiful Spanish sunny day.)

 

It seems the value in the old photo lies more in the historical record it provides, whereas the Casa Lleo Morera is such a beautiful subject that it doesn’t need colour, not even a blue sky. And therein lies the secret to an interesting black and white photo today.

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Published by Trish

Literary translator

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