Picturing the past

CHENNAI's HERITAGE is in the limelight again.

Visual impressions of the city captured during 1880- 1930 by photographers, who had an aesthetic sense, are now available.

A 100 years ago, the Napier bridge, near the mouth of the Cooum river, was much narrower than at present. But, at that time, the widely-used means of transport was the bullock cart and horse- drawn carriages. A photograph taken in 1895 of the bridge, which was then called the Triplicane bridge, shows how beautiful the place was, with carts and carriages going in an orderly manner and the sea closer to the bridge.

One of the busiest roads of Chennai, the First Line Beach Road, now known as Rajaji Salai, was a quiet thoroughfare in 1915. A photograph taken then shows the road, with virtually no vehicular traffic.

Another photograph portrays the PWD headquarters and the Senate House, constructed during the era of the famous British architect, R. F. Chisholm, facing the Marina. This picture, taken in 1890, shows that the beach had once extended up to the Beach Road.

A set of 10 photographs is now available from a private publisher of cards, Vintage Vignettes. ``In the last 15 years, we have collected around 150 photographs, taken in the later part of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century, besides glass negatives of these,'' says Mr. D. Krishnan, partner of the organisation.

The photographs are sure to bring waves of nostalgia to the older residents of Chennai. ``Our intention is to bring to the attention of the present-day younger generation what the city looked like 100 years ago or 75 years ago. It is not just to recall old days,'' Mr. Krishnan says.

As the Christmas-New Year season is coming, Vintage Vignettes has printed greeting cards with different photographs. Each set of the cards costs Rs.100 (telephone numbers: 4994746 and 4981609 and its e-mail desikank@yahoo.com).

Some more recent images of Chennai have progressed into the digital age. Marito Corporation, a digital publisher, has launched a CD-ROM with around a 100 images of the country, some of them of Chennai. The Fotofine CD has images of Chennai Central, for instance, in 3600 by 2400 dpi resolution.

Putting images on a CD is perhaps the easiest storage format in the digital era, and the royalty-free images are bound to be useful to a range of creative and web users, besides the routine brochure designer. The Fotofine CD - 10 more titles are coming - will also be sold directly through the company's site, www.fotofine.com.

The digital era's most distinguishing characteristic is falling prices. Not too long before amateurs make available their own photos of Chennai for public use. The market for high quality photos and image banks is ever growing.

By T. Ramakrishnan