Black and white Art Deco

A few years ago I went to Napier in New Zealand, the Art Deco ‘capital’ of the world due to the style of its architecture constructed after the commercial part of the town was destroyed in an earthquake in 1931. I took this photo (on the right) of one of the buildings with vintage cars parked outside, marking the spot where a tour begins. It resembles several photos from my father’s WWII album from North Africa where many of the buildings had been built in the 1930s. Art Deco buildings and decoration are recognisable by their geometric, symmetrical forms, hard edges and repeated lines. The photo of a covered market built in 1932 in Nairobi, Kenya, is a good example of this fashion. This building is still there.

Placed side by side this way, it’s easy to see how far photography has come. The image from Nairobi, Kenya, is a bit dull next to the clean whites and lines of my photo taken in New Zealand in 2013. However, the modern ability to adjust the light in photos is also good for revealing detail in shadows in my old pics, detail that I had no idea was there when I looked at the original photos that are just a few inches long and wide. For example, when I increased the light in the old photo, some features appeared at the building entrance. And the open windows up the side of the building are more defined now.

I like the clean space depicted in the newer image from Napier. And the details on its cars, for example, compared with the blurriness of the cars in the old pic, make it a far more interesting photo to study when zooming in. It’s my favourite today.

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Published by Trish

Literary translator

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