History in photos – great art, good student project?

Earlier I found an idea I’ve not been able to incorporate into my classes, but which I still like:  Take historic photos of your town, go to the same place today and see what it looks like.

Comparing historic images with places today

Students could do this: Comparing historic images with places today

A Russian photographer takes the exercise further, and creates sometimes-stunning art.

Sergey Larenkov has photos from Europe in World War II.  He blends parts of those images with photos of the same places today, in cities across Europe. He has images from Berlin, Leningrad, and other cities (crawl over his LiveJournal site — there’s good stuff).

Sergey Larenkov, World War II historic photo overlay on modern shot - Leningrad?

Sergey Larenkov, World War II historic photo overlay on modern shot - is this Leningrad? Whose soldiers, what year?

Sergey Larenkov work, the Siege of Leningrad, and Leningrad today (reverting to the name St. Petersburg)

Sergey Larenkov work, the Siege of Leningrad, and Leningrad today (reverting to the name St. Petersburg)

Ghostly, no?

The photos show the destruction of war, and how far Europe has come since then.  It’s an astounding view of history.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, these photo mashups are worth ten thousand words or more.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Alices’ blog at My Modern Met.

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6 Responses to History in photos – great art, good student project?

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    I worried about that, that some of the photos might be offensive. I think that the photographer is going for effect, for impact. But I think he’s got a good sense of the history of the events there.

    It’s a technique that could give rise to trite work, and great offense, I’m sure.

    But in these examples, it’s astoundingly thought provoking, and touching.


  2. jd2718 says:

    I was bothered by the scenes from Leningrad; I thought they crossed a line. But then I spoke with a woman about my age from Leningrad (lives here now). Much of her family was lost in the siege. And the photos made her feel good.

    I have to accept that. And let me add, you chose the single montage that affected me most strongly.



  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Sparrow1969: Take a look at the comment from chamblee54 — I think this technique could be used by a PhotoShop savvy person in almost any American city with astounding results, and the Atlanta Time Machine provides photos for Atlanta. Unlike those World War II photos, in many American cities the buildings themselves would have changed dramatically.

    But in some cases, not — the Empire State Building in New York surely appears in 1939 street photos — comparisons to today would be telling. Or that iconic photo of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ day — think how Times Square has changed.

    In Salt Lake City, there was an old department store, the Zion Cooperative Mercantile Exchange. In the 1960s and 1970s the building was demolished, but the storefront itself was preserved. Especially now, when the ZCMI company itself is gone, someone could do a collage of three photos, the old store, the new store facade, and how it looks today. It would also work pretty well in an animation, fading from old to new.

    Computers give us new tools to compare the past and present, and in this case, other times in between that we have captured in photographs.

    The Dallas Public Library has an extensive collection of historical photos of Dallas, including lots of building shots. The Utah Historical Society’s collection has been digitized at the University of Utah, and much of it is on line. Georgia State has a huge collection that chamblee54 mines, and I’ve used before. The Library of Congress American Memory Project has at least tens of thousands of photos.

    Other likely suspects of sources of photos: New York Public Library, New York State Library, University of Texas (well, they have maps, and I believe they have a collection of those old “bird’s eye view” maps of Texas cities) . . .

    Who has collections of photos you may have found, dear readers?

    Photo of the now-demolished Dr. Pepper Plant in Dallas, Texas, from the Dallas Public Library:

    Dr. Pepper Plant, Dallas, Texas, from Dallas Public Library

    Scott Dorn took a photo from a different angle in 1995, before the plant was demolished. You can see it here at Dorn’s Flickr site.

    Here’s another color shot, probably from about the same time as the one above, from Miscellaneous Accumulation:

    Dallas's Dr. Pepper Plant, while still in use

    The author of that site said of this photo:

    It was a sad, sad day when they tore it down a few years ago to make way for a Kroger, a gas station, and “edgy” apartments for Dallas’ relentlessly hip and fabulously well-groomed under-30 set.

    I haven’t found a photo of the modern incarnation of civilization at that site, but I’m sure it’s available.


  4. sparrow1969 says:

    What an amazing idea. I would (be [think?]) that it’s difficult to find places that are still enough like they used to be to make this work.


  5. jsojourner says:

    Those are Soviet soldiers. The uniforms are right. I would suspect early war because it appears they have rifles. By the end of the war, weren’t most rank and file soldiers equipped with PPsH submachine guns? Weird to see them, in any respect, juxtaposed with modern transportation!


  6. chamblee54 says:

    This site compares “then and now”, using separate windows instead of the mash up technique. ATM uses the same photo collection at Georgia State University that I use.
    I heard in a podcast there is a similar site for Birmingham AL. I did not catch the name.


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