5 reasons to photograph the Old Provost

I live in a small town in the Eastern Cape province in South Africa. Well I call it a town but it is actually classified as a city due to the fact that it has a Cathedral. Grahamstown has 60 churches and is sometimes referred to as the City of Saints. The town has a colonial English history, many historical buildings and a university. The town in fact has over 70 listed Heritage sites!

Other interesting facts about the town:

  • The town hosts National Arts Festival every winter, which is the biggest festival of its kind in Africa
  • The Grocott’s Mail, produced weekly in Grahamstown, is South Africa’s oldest independent newspaper offices
  • The author André Brink, who lectured at Rhodes University between 1961 and 1990 lived in The Cock House here in Grahamstown. He wrote a number of novels in this house, some of which were banned during apartheid

Of the many Heritage sites in Grahamstown, my favourite from a photography point of view is possibly The Old Provost building.

5 things that make it special as a photographic subject

Well, before I start with the list, lets just say – it’s old, it has character! Obviously, during Festival time, this place is heaving and it takes on a whole new persona.

  1. The first thing I like is the building’s unusual curved shape which is only really fully understood from inside the walls. As you approach the building from any direction, you can only see the turret and curve of the tower but not the curve of the cells along the back wall – that is a discovery you will make once you go inside.
  2. The tower has a series of 8 interesting deeply recessed window portals with long narrow windows – 4 on the ground level and 4 on the 2nd level. I have photographed these many times.
  3. Some of the walls are made of roughly hewn stone, cracked in some places, which of course makes for wonderful textures and patterns
  4. Other bits of the walls are plastered and damp in some places. They have veiny cracks running through them that create a marvellous sense of earthiness and oldness
  5. The people who run the coffee shop are very creative and there is always some kind of quirky bric-a-brac on display. Often, there is a bowl of drinking water for doggies too!
  6. Oh, dear, can I have another? Outside there are some very old eucalyptus trees which tower above the building. Some charming tree swings have been added to the branches, as an alternative place to sit when outdoors.

Image credits: © Deborah Ann Stott 2016

Sources of information

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