Black and white fountains

Continuing with my posts about black and white photos from the 1940s, and comparing them with my own recent snaps in black and white, today I’m comparing two fountains.

The photo on the left was taken in 1941 in the Helwan Gardens in Egypt. I haven’t been able to find another image of this fountain on Google images so I don’t know its name or whether it still exists (my father didn’t write a caption under it). Helwan was a village near Cairo where allied soldiers camped in World War 2, which is why my father had photos of these gardens in his album.

The other photo is one I took in February this year of a fountain in Goulburn NSW.

The 1941 image is soft but lacking sharp detail. I imagine the tiles on the stair risers would be visible in all their decorative detail if photographed with a digital camera. The 2022 photo does show detail of the old fountain’s crumbling plaster work, but also all the layers on the palm trunk are well defined, like the individual palm fronds and the leaves and needles on the big old trees in the park.

The Goulburn fountain reminded me of the photo from Helwan, both having palm trees planted close by. In colonial Goulburn it was part of a Victorian era fashion for associating the civilised parts of town with exotic plantings and Biblical lands. Egypt was one of those Biblical lands where palm trees grow naturally, yet there were so many planted in the large Helwan Gardens that I wonder whether the landscapers were influenced by the Victorians…

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Published by Trish

Literary translator

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