Have you ever wondered what your street/area looked like maybe 50, or even 100 years ago? Well, if you live in Leith, this new book, Leith Reflections by Jack Gillon and Fraser Parkinson (available now) might just have the answers to some of your questions.
The format of this book over its 96 pages is a simple one, put two photos with some basic historical information (usually only a few lines) onto nearly every page of the book to provide a past and present historical record of the area. The interesting twist here is that the old and the new photographs have been split into two halves and merged, and the end result is a left and right hand side of the street viewed through the “old and the new”.
In theory, this as an idea is intriguing, but sadly the end result is often less than satisfactory. There are several reasons for this, and perhaps the most obvious one is that this type of photographic merging works best where you have a street, or scene that has changed little (if any) over the years, and to be fair, there are times when this image merging approach does work far better than others times. The real visual problems come when you have somewhere like Leith where modern re-development (well within the past 60 years or more) has simply obliterated so much of what once stood there in the name of “progress”. All too often in Leith, there is simply very little, and at times nothing, left of whole streets and areas, and it is here that this type of photographic image splicing and merging simply does not work well at all. For some reason, the print quality of many of these old and new images seems to be very dark, making many individual details of the photographs all too often difficult to see clearly. I do not know if this was intentional, or a print production issue that should have been resolved prior to publication.
The concept behind “Leith Reflections” is an intriguing one that offers many possibilities to both the casual reader and those more interested in historical details and facts. To reach its potential though, this book required a lot more pre-production into the manipulation and merging of the photographic source materials old and new.
Having said all of the above, I am sure that this book will still please many as it is an easy read and easy reference to old and new Leith.
Review by Lisa Sibbald (c) 2021
ARTS REVIEWS EDINBURGH