by Micha Horgan

Stumbling across George Plunkett’s photo collection, my immediate thought was: ‘looked cool back then, what happened?’ The photos, which were taken on the dates listed, have a Tardis-like capacity to take the viewer back to a Norwich long since gone. It was a time of quaint cars, hand-painted signs, curiously shaped buildings, stylish hats, trench coats and inherent glamour – most of us can’t help but love it.

This habit of romanticising the aesthetic of times past begs the question: ‘Why is it that we find the past so appealing?’

we like the past a lot. We fetishize it. The past is cool

For some it may be an attraction to a fantastical otherworldliness, for others the past represents a time of greater intimacy, pre-corporate takeover, when businesses were family run and when things were on a personal scale. Of course these are just some of the infinite reasons for which the past appeals to us and so I pose the question, not with any pretentions at having an answer but as a prompt. Whatever the reasons for our affinity with past aesthetics, we can say, with the support of significant evidence (of which a history of recycled fashion trends and architecture forms only a part), that we like the past a lot. We fetishize it. The past is cool.

When I saw Plunkett’s photos of Prince of Wales Road, I experienced a feeling that was not unlike envy but was perhaps closer to a peculiar sadness. I told myself to relax about it; that what I was going through was no more than the ‘grass is greener’ phenomenon in action. All the same, I felt it, the unshakable sense that I had missed out on something both wonderful and irretrievable.

In response to this feeling I went out in search of answers, beginning by finding (or attempting to find), the various viewpoints from which George Plunkett had taken his photos all those years ago. By retracing his steps and taking my own modern-day shots, I hoped we might better understand our feelings towards ‘then’ and ‘now.’

[The author has been a resident of Prince of Wales Road since September 2015]

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For more information on the photographs featured in the gallery, visit George Plunkett’s collection.

Featured image © Vince Betts

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