Black and white brigades

For my last black and white post comparison, I’ve played with a photo from my father’s WW2 album, darkening the image to bring out the words taken from Churchill’s most famous speech in June 1941: “We shall never negotiate with Hitler”. I’m comparing it with a photo I took in 2017 in Amiens, France, of a fire brigade training in front of the cathedral. My darkened version of the old photo is on the left, and the original is below it. Most likely the location is Cairo where my father was stationed. The mosque domes, minarets, and Moorish striped arches suggest it’s at least in a large city.

There are similarities in the two images: large old buildings behind groups of helmeted men. And there is contrast: in the old photo, the people are in white uniforms and white pith helmets before a dark building. In the photo in Amiens, the people are in dark uniforms with silver helmets before a light building. The great detail in the new one, especially in the sculpted decoration on the cathedral, is what draws the eye. But the old photo – in spite of its lack of such detail, its blurriness around the arches and verandahs, its unidentifiable faces – tells a good story simply because of the writing.

I’ve been looking at the big sign in this photo since I was a child, but when I scanned the small black and white picture and then digitally decreased the light, the writing on the sign became clearer, darker, stronger. A reminder of what it takes to defeat an enemy.

Thank you all for reading my thoughts this year on old and new black and white photos. And I thank my father for bringing the photos home.

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Published by Trish

Literary translator

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