Everywhere is different but nevertheless is not unrecognisable

We welcome Allan LEONARD (aka “Mr Ulster”) as a contributor to Northern Slant. Allan has a passion for photography, particularly as a means of storytelling and even contributing towards conflict transformation. He begins here with a peak into the image gallery archives at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

Everywhere is different but nevertheless is not unrecognisable
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Slant
25 April 2017

Of the treasure trove of prints and negatives held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), a relatively small selection of about 2,500 images are available to view on Flickr. This consists of three collections: the Allison Photographic Collection, the Cooper Photographic Collection, and a PRONI-created collection of merged images, which they called ‘Then & Now’.

The ‘Then & New’ collection consists of new images created by merging old archival photographs with new ones, of streetscapes across Belfast and counties Antrim, Down, and Tyrone. (Indeed, the Belfast images have been written about by Brian O’Neill.)

The motivation to create these blended scenes appears to come from the archival review of the 70,000 original glass plate negatives from the Cooper Collection, as discussed in PRONI’s introduction:

“These photographs enable us not only to see these small towns as they were in the past, but also to make a ‘then and now’ comparison with them. In most cases it is possible to stand in or near the spot where Cooper stood with his camera and compare the view we see with the image he captured 60, 70 or 80 years ago. Everywhere is different but nevertheless is not unrecognisable. Indeed, there is in many cases at least as much continuity as there is change.”

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