Past meets present

A NEW online exhibition by the Museum of Perth highlights the historic city buildings lost to the bulldozers in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The majority of Demolished Icons is based on the work of photographer Michael Parr, who runs the Facebook page Lost Perth Found, and painstakingly created before-and-after composite images of the city.

He’s long been interested in archival shots of Perth, and while working in the CBD about four years ago he started looking around for sites of former buildings.

• Federal Hotel – composite image by Michael Parr via Museum of Perth. Original image courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia: 006626PD

Before long he was bringing his camera along on lunch breaks to try and recreate the shots of where old buildings used to be.

“I like the perspective of reshooting it and technically matching the shot,” he says.

Parr starts with satellite images, trying to figure out how the streetscapes and roads have changed over the years.

Where possible, he tries to match the shadow, down to the time of day and time of year when the original pics were shot (most of them were in the summer, making for a tricky shooting season as winter rolls around).

• Viking House – composite image by Michael Parr via Museum of Perth. Original image courtesy of State Library of Western Australia Image: 014727PD

Sometimes newer buildings are in the way, requiring perspective tricks to match the angles.

“While I’m doing my photos I think, the photographer stood here, I imagine what it looks like with the original architecture here,” Parr says.

When he sees what replaced these grand old buildings “sometimes it’s pretty disappointing … but I don’t want my work to just be focused on what we’ve lost. Sometimes I can highlight what’s still there.

“We’ve lost quite a lot of lovely buildings, that’s for sure. But there is still quite a lot out there. It’s just that people need to look up more when they walk around the city,” he says, with many of the newer shopfronts still capped by intact buildings from the second storey up.

• Michael Parr in Perth. Photo by Steve Grant

Museum of Perth director Reece Harley says that when people see the photos they are shocked at how many historic buildings were demolished.

“The issues are complex,” he says.

“If you’re looking at the Adelphi Hotel for example which was built in 1937, by the time it came down it was only 50 years old. So a lot of these buildings we look at now, with the progress of time, seem much more important than they were viewed at the time. These were only 50 year old buildings, the maintenance cost was high, and the trend was towards modernism with clean lines.”

The full exhibition with the animated images transitions is online at http://www.demolishedicons.com, and Mr Harley says they’re eager to hear from anyone with suggestions of other lost buildings that could be added to the growing project (get in touch via http://www.museumofperth.com.au).

by DAVID BELL

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