One of the many joys of Amberley Publishing's "Through Time" series, is the way that different authors are able to interpret the brief for the series in different ways. The basic idea is to take a series of old photographs of (usually) a town or city, and show each on a page with an equivalent modern image of the same scene. Add in a helpful and informative caption that gives a little background and describes the important changes between the old and new views, and so on to the next view. Different authors have adopted different approaches to deciding what works as an "equivalent modern image", and the result ranges from the very literal to a much looser search for the way the feel of a place has changed over time.
"Hawick Through Time" by Alistair Redpath takes a fairly literal approach to the brief: as far as is permitted by the many changes to have taken place during the photographic era in the most urban-feeling of the towns in the Scottish Borders. The starting point seems to have been the selection of some fine historical photographs of Hawick, and we suspect that the author then set out to take modern equivalents.
The result is highly effective in documenting the way the town of Hawick has changed over the years, though it is perhaps a pity that so many of the modern images seem to have been taken on the same rainy day. You could perhaps argue that this makes them more similar in tone to the old sepia images which which many are paired for comparison. But it is also undoubtedly the case that the overall effect is to show Hawick at less than its best. This is very obvious on one pair of facing pages where two modern street scenes featuring the beautiful Hawick Town Hall appear, one in rain and the other under blue skies and in sunshine.
The old photographs on view are fascinating. The town's long gone railway station and the accompanying lines are well illustrated, as is the livestock auction mart that has since become a supermarket car park. Elsewhere the changes are much more subtle, as in the case of the site of the town's motte and bailey castle. And two images, of the unveiling of the 1514 Monument in 1914 and the vast crowd filling Kirkstile, also in 1914, for the Common Riding festivities are remarkable and poignant. It is sobering to wonder how many of the men appearing in those photographs were still alive four years later.