Colombo city has undergone rapid urban transformation over the past few years. Skyscrapers and larger-than-life towers have sprung up on every corner and altered our skyline at an unprecedented pace. Some folks welcome this urban development, while others remain somewhat skeptical on what this holds for the future of our city. Then there’s the like of Menaka Senanyake, who are intrigued by this transformation, and take to creative projects to look at things from a different perspective.

Cinnamon Gardens Police Station

Cinnamon Gardens Police Station – The walls of the police station have been taken down now allowing the building to be seen better

Town Hall

Town Hall – Not much has changed

Menaka, a 21 year old IT graduate living in Colombo is responsible for initiating the ‘Then and Now’ project. Using photos from the 1800’s and 1900’s, he takes viewers on a journey back in time to tell a story of spatial histories and their progress.

Colombo Race Course

Colombo Race Course – Apart from the upgraded vehicles, much of the building has been restored to its original form

While this concept of ‘Then and Now’ photos is not new, Menaka explains that his reason for doing this is to illustrate the transformation of historic sites over the decades.

Victoria Memorial Hospital

Victoria Memorial Hospital – Still operates today

“When capturing these images, I don’t use a professional DSLR or Digital camera because I don’t consider myself a photographer. All my photos are taken using an iPhone

Colombo National Museum Main Entrance

Colombo National Museum – Currently under construction, we eagerly wait its re-opening

Finding the exact locations of the original photos is no easy task either. “Sometimes it takes two to three days to find the correct location. Usually, I use Google Maps but there are instances where it’s really tedious to find the exact location as they are highly congested and the street names are different from back in the day too”. 

Galle Face Green Walking Path

Galle Face Green – The signature of our skyline

For Menaka, the biggest changes have been the roads and infrastructure.

Over the past decade our country has developed and the standard of living among locals has drastically increased too”. 

The Galle Face Hotel

The Galle Face Hotel – Now with Skyscrapers in the background

It’s not just about the superficial observances though.

“I have learned a lot about Sri Lankan history and culture. I usually do a background check on each location before I try and locate it.  Our country is blessed with a rich history and culture, and this is my way of paying tribute to it and appreciating its diversity over the years”.  

George Wall Memorial Fountain

George Wall Memorial Fountain – Now with commercial entities

There are a few more photos to be added to this series, so watch this space. Menaka also hopes to work on similar projects in the future. Check out his Instagram for regular updates and upcoming projects.