Memories of a street that once was, revisiting personal landmarks that have vanished, looking away to observe how much the landscape has changed, and all this punctuated with the crash of the waves. ‘Madras before after’, a predominantly black and white photography exhibition at Elliots Beach, looked at the city not just through a sepia-tinted lens, but also a disciplined archival approach.

Organised as part of the ongoing Art Chennai 2014 festival, the exhibition traces a nostalgic, yet measured trajectory of the city’s colonial past and its evolution.

From Indo-Saracenic architecture to depictions of daily life, the exhibition draws you to engage with it.

72 photographs from the collection of ‘Vintage Vignettes’ were curated by the festival’s artistic director Girish Shahane. “We thought it was a great way of connecting people of the city with its built heritage,” he said.

The exhibition has photographs of Mount Road in 1907, flower bazaar in 1896, a rather pristine Adyar River in 1886, the central railway station, the Chepauk Palace, and the Marina among many others.

K. Skandan, Managing Director, Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation, said “Like climate change, cultural change also matters. It has to be discussed and debated.”

D. Krishnan, managing partner, Vintage Vignettes, emphasised the need for thorough and systematic documentation of the city. Sanjay Tulsyan, founder and convenor of the festival was also present.

For those such as Aishwarya Pesala, a resident of East Mada Street in Mylapore, it was about revisiting the street where she lived all these years.

“I live here and am trying to recognise this building and what stands in its place now,” she said standing in front of a photograph. “But the car festival at the Kapaleeswarar temple still draws as much of a crowd,” she added standing in front of a 1906 photograph of the festival.