Past and present photo collage

We all are used to seeing photographs of the built environment that are current as well as ones that are historical – but rarely to we see them so vividly juxtaposed, bringing home the reality contained within dusty and scratched black-and-white images from the past. These images capture critical moments from one the most incredible sieges in modern history and contrast them with the relative calm current state of the city.

Leningrad past and present

Sergei Larenkov went through archival images of St. Petersburg to find compelling images from the Siege of Leningrad from World War II – a critical period in the war and a devastating time for citizens in the city. Thousands froze to death and food supplies were so scarce people turned to wallpaper glue and leather boots as emergency sources of sustenance.

Before and after war photos

On the one hand, there is no mistaking the transition from grainy black-and-white to contemporary color but, on the other hand, the scenes are so identically shot that the past seems to bleed into the present. Particularly powerful are the then-and-now photographic montages that show something being built and later completed, or that pair ordinary pedestrians from the present with struggling people of the past.

Pat and present construction history

More than merely a one-off art project, this photographic set shows the possibilities of telling history in new and different ways. Imagine if a database were developed to overlay images from all through history so we could witness the evolution of built environments over time. This may be only the beginning.

War photo scenes collage

Here’s a little more background information from English Russia:

“During nine hundred (!) days a few million people city of Leningrad suffered from cold and hunger, being deprived of almost all supplies of food and fuel. Many thousands died, those who survived remember this not very willingly. The situation with food was so heavy, no food was sold/distributed among people except a few grams (not even tens or hundred grams) of bread, and not each day, that people had to eat stuff that they would never eat in normal life, like making soups of leather boots (because leather is of animal origin) or boiling the wallpaper because the glue with which they were attached to walls contained a bit of organic stuff. Of course many occasions of cannibalism occurred.”