Black and white carved stonework

I have this photo of the partial interior of an Egyptian mosque in about 1941, its archway and internal structures embellished with carved stonework. I don’t know the two soldiers in the image, but I bet they were looking at all this carving and painting with mouths agape. It’s a photo from my father’s World War II album, which he captioned ‘Temple’.

When I was in France in 2013 I visited a small cathedral in Elne, a short bus ride from Collioure on the Mediterranean, not far from the border with Spain. Its cloister is magnificent, breathtaking, with geometric and floral patterns on the cylindrical pillars and Biblical stories carved into the capitals of the square pillars. The decorated stonework reminded me of the photo from Egypt.

Is either image better than the other? Zooming in on the older picture reveals softness especially on the white decorated surfaces, but much of the detail is still clear and the men are identifiable. Zooming in on the 2013 pic reveals edges that are sharper though not perfect, a bit nervy. The shadows are darker, more distinct, making it all more black and white rather than grey and white.

Both images are appealing for their curves and verticals as well as the artwork that turns plain stone into a thing of beauty. It’s another case of geometric forms making an excellent subject for monochrome photography.

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Published by Trish

Literary translator

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