What if we take some old photos of Madrid and try to repeat them in the same scenario but today? Doesn’t seem very original, that’s been made many times. But, what if we try to find the total symbiosis between both pictures in just one with the aim of creating a completely new scenario? Could you find any differences between ages, architecture, monuments, people or environment? I propose a game, in which is more important the reason than the eye, the photography’s history. Want to play?
‘Gran Vía’ Street 1930-2009
Traffic jam in Gran Via. Six cars collapsing the road widthways. Pedro Chicote it’s about to open the famous bar that has his name in the no. 12, a vermouth and gathering institution from Madrid. Some meters down street a big sign let us know about that another Pedro, Almodóvar, opens his last film “Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos)”, all of this while the awnings protect of the sun the coffins of “La dolorosa”, the most famous funeral parlor of the capital.
The little fountain of Toledo street. 1909-2009
Young girls going down Toledo Street with the pitchers held by their waist, to fill them with the best water of Madrid. While some of them are waiting in the line, a pair of drug addicts look into their pockets for the last amphetamines bought, with a fake prescription, in “La fuentecilla” drugstore.
The “Equitativa” building of Sevilla street. 1915-2009
Sevilla Street, place for gathers and origin of impossible rumors. Wagons compete with new motorbikes. In a bar’s outside, in the corner, the tourists try to decipher the maps while they’re taking cañas and tapas.
The “Unión y el Fénix” building (Metropolis) 1915-2009
In 1915, the fantasy of Chueca and Pérez González was almost a fact. The first buildings in Gran Via, Alcalá corner grow up to give a modernist look to the Capital city. Although the rest of the street was under construction, there were big traffic jams the entire street long in Plaza de Callao direction.
Gran Vía & Red de San Luis. 1955-2009
In Gran Via’s cross with Red de San Luis is located one of the smartest stores of Madrid, Aleixandre. Its owner, a man from Valencia, established the store for selling the most valuable fans of the Capital City. In the same enclosure, various tourists eat the famous McDonald’s hamburgers.
The ‘Madrid Tower’ 1957-2009
D. José María Otamendi, man of the corporation “Compañía Metropolitana”, was the patron that built the famous Torre de Madrid (Madrid’s Tower). In 1957, in half construction, the building was sharing the construction with the large rehabilitation of his brother, another building, the Edificio España (a building with more than 50 years). This rehabilitation will put 319 new luxury flats on the market.
Cibeles Square and The ‘Comunication Palace’. 1915-2009
At Cibeles, the ‘Comunication Palace’ shares telegraph services with the Mayor’s office. Outiside, the red-line taxis and the autotaxis argue about the different drop rate taxes. More than 2 euro the first ones, and 1,29 pesetas the second ones.
Through the most famous access arch to ‘Plaza Mayor‘ (Arco de Cuchilleros), two lost tourist cross it looking for a guide. Below, a bus of “La Rápida” transport service waits to go out, while some autotaxis block its way. The cutlers’ guild workshops (providers of the butchers at Plaza Mayor square) share the street with souvenir and tacky things shops.
Sources and links
Some time ago I found these photomontages of The Siege of Leningrad. The visual impact is very powerful and the sensation that lefts from the place is brutal. The conclusion is that the architecture as scenario is just the history’s atrezzo. The quality of a place comes from its stories, legends or anecdotes. It seemed interesting to me going a bit far away and try to confuse past with present in the same picture for finding with the reason that thing that with the eye you can’t make out. Sharing old scenarios with today’s character and, analyzing the picture, discover the context of each age.
To make this photoshops I used three great books about Madrid’s history in photos. You can find lots of them in websites like this, this, or this. I chose around 40 and ruled out all the pictures that are impossible to take nowadays. My biggest problem was to find out the focal distance of the pictures to copy the original, as they use very odd lenses. Fortunately, the actual DTP and perspective correction tools make miracles. Also, it was pretty common in old pictures of architecture raise a pair of meters on a car or on an easel just for gaining a vanishing point. I didn’t want to carry a ladder in my motorbike neither, because I didn’t want to end answering the questions of the policeman, so I decided to take the photos from a human-eye level.
I chose 12 photos and I went to the streets with my motorbike and my Canon EOS 10D. I left at home the tele (75-300mm) and I took the 17-40mm, enough to cover the range of the 28-45mm that old lenses were supposed to have.
I didn’t have any problem because I looked like a common tourist. Only just a gentle advice of this policeman, which came to notice about my intentions when he saw me trying to cross the same street 35 times, just for taking the fucking photo from the middle.
In some famous scenarios I gave up because of some Mayor that loves black holes. In others, interesting too, not having time and enough perspective forced some pictures to be ruled out.
I wish you’ve enjoyed this experiment. If I see that you like it, I’ll do the same with the most important European capitals, when a big bank subsidizes and sponsors the complete week of hotel and allowance that this experiment needs, for me and my family, of course
Thanks to @eddiedean for translating this post