By: Haroon Khalid
Lahore, the city of gardens, has lost most of its gardens. The few that have remained have been abandoned out of fear of dengue fever, a disease that haunts Lahore after the monsoon rains. It’s a congested city now, with millions of cars. It is the second most populated city in the country. Millions moved here after the Partition of 1947, changing the landscape of the city forever. Sporadically, in between several commercial plazas, one may notice a historical monument, built during the colonial era or even before that. But in the modern Lahore they seem to be out of place, lacking context. It is impossible to visually imagine the city as a spacious one, with plenty of gardens, and aesthetically pleasant buildings. Project Lahore is aiming to do just that.
“It’s a visual history of Lahore,” says Siddique Shahzad, a 35 year old, IT professional, co-founder of Project Lahore, along with Qasim Khan. “I have always been fascinated with vintage photography. It’s very popular in the West. I have been collecting old photographs of Lahore since the past many years. Recently I decided to put them all together for the people of the city,” says Shahzad. Launched in February 2010, the Facebook page titled “Lahore – the city of gardens” now has almost 6000 ‘likes’ or followers. The group’s various albums have over 500 vintage photographs of the city. It is a collection of old maps, monuments, activities, statues, and paintings, among others. The collection depicts a Lahore that no longer exists. There are several other photographs that will be put up soon. The entire collection is digitized.
Siddique explains how he collected the photographs from different sources, including the British Library, the Columbia University Collection and other sources on the net. His aim has been to put all of them in one place. He has visited antique shops all over the city, purchasing old paintings of Lahore, which he has now also put online. “I always contact my sources and assure them that we will give them the required credit, which helps in convincing them to allow us to use the photographs. We use watermarks to make sure that these pictures are not used commercially from our end, as most of them are commercially protected or have copy rights,” he says. Another project that they launched recently, called “Lahore Memories” aims to use family albums of residents to offer insight into the past.