Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Repeat Photography Part 1

by Anita Mae Draper

Last fall I was checking over the 1200 photos I’d taken of my trip from Saskatchewan, down through Montana and Wyoming to Denver, Colorado and back north again. Specifically, I was looking at the 800 plus photos of Wyoming where my Emma’s Outlaw manuscript is set while trying to figure out what type of trees were in the photos and what would have been around back in 1879. This led to an interesting post on another blog showing how I found that information. It also reminded me of Historic Repeat Photography.

Googling Historic Repeat Photography is fine for landscape photos used to determine changes to water courses, riparian areas, glaciers and vegetation over time. But I wanted to see what towns looked like back then.

My first exposure to this type of photography was in the Then & Now column of the monthly magazine, Our Canada.  One issue showed a black & white photo of a quiet country lane with one old farm and some hills in the background. Another photo of the same view taken sixty years later showed a road with numerous houses on either side, yet you knew it was the same place because of the hills in the background. In another issue, they showed an B&W photo of an old city street and then what the same street looks like today. You could still see some of the original buildings.
So, I googled some more and found an array of photos under these searches:

- Then and Now Photography

- Now and Then Photography

- Rephotography (Wikipedia)

From a historical writer's view, these are invaluable resources for getting the accuracy as well as the ambiance for your chosen period of writing, like this:

New York 1896

The Siegel-Cooper Department Store on Sixth Avenue & 18th Street, New York opened in 1896 and remained one of the city’s premier shopping destinations until 1918.

New York Present Day

 Although the building now houses lofts and an assortment of smaller stores, the exterior still remains much as it did at the turn of the century.  

Bagg Mansion, Montreal
 1900 and 2003
The Montreal Bear describes the Robert Bagg Mansion on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal as such:  "The property is clearly urban in its overall style with a Victorian inspiration and twist thanks to the tower, located left, topped with a "pepper shaker" style roof. The house is sided with grey stone ashlar masonry for the basement level, red sandstone ashlar on first and second floor and painted cedar shingles on the mansard-looking third floor roof. Originally, the mansard roof was sided in copper which was seriously damaged during the 1983 fire."

If you'd like to see more Then and Now Photography, the McCord Museum of Canadian History has a virtual exhibit, Urban Life Through Two Lenses, where they compare interior photographs as well exterior cityscapes of Montreal, Quebec. Slide your mouse over the photos for more information.

Anniversary photos are another reason people like this type of photography.

Bert and Carla's 60th

I'll be back next week with more information about this type of photography, specifically,  the best way to create historic photos such as the anniversary one above. Also, how to create blended Now & Then photos using old photos or postcards and combining them with present day photos, whether print or digital.

I think one of the best uses of Repeat Photography would be in the biblical education department. Unfortunately, actual photographs have only been around since the middle of the 19th century, so that's not possible. However, we have the Bible which contains detailed descriptions of enough buildings to give us an idea. So, next week, I'll show you what is currently available for this purpose. It reminds me of the second Bible I ever owned which instantly became my favorite because of the color maps in the back. Still, it was hard to separate the biblical place names with those on a modern day map.

One of my favourite photo themes is to take a series of photo of the same thing - like a birdhouse or apple tree - in different seasons of the year, to see the change take place. I've done the same thing with mushrooms growing in the lawn, although I had to act fast because they went from a 1/2 inch button to a floppy 4 inch mess within a 24 hour period. I've also taken photos of the same scene but at different times of the day so that it catches the soft morning light, the bright washed out mid-day light, and the goldeny natural evening light. And to think it has a name like Repeat Photograhy.

I'll leave you with these photos I've taken in the last couple years of a scene that greats me when I open my bedroom blind.

Spring Early Morning

Winter Mid-morning

Late Fall Sunset
Summer Mid-day

Have you ever tried any type of repeat photography? Share it with us, including a link if you can.


  1. Hey, you're really good at this.
    I've never tried it but LOVE Monet's churches and water lillies.

    Oh, I guess I HAVE SEEN it; do aging people count?
    dear one.
    Miss you!

  2. I love photography. It's on my list of things I'd love to really explore.

    I saw a facinating exhibit a while back called 25 Years of the Brown Sisters. Every year, starting in 1977 the husband of one of the four sisters, took their portraits in black and white.
    It was cool to see how they changed.

  3. Love this idea, Anita. I have a book about New York called something like Now and Then. Definitely a great resource.

  4. I've never tried this, but my husband and kids like to take interesting picture where they play with perspective, like pinching the moon between their fingers or holding up a cliff. Not very historical. I know.

  5. I love this stuff but never knew it had an official name!

    I'm looking forward to next week's continuance of this subject, Anita!

  6. Beautiful! I'm an absolute nut about Victorian architecture. Love the old buildings here.

  7. This is the coolest blog post EVER. Love love love it!

    I have only lived in San Antonio for 5 years, but I heard that our roads are screwy because they were laid over ranch trails. That would be cool to see from up above... but seeing as how aerial photography is a fairly recent invention, I might have to use maps instead.

  8. Patti, I had to google 'Monet's water lilies'. I know he did one, but I didn't realize he did so many. Wow! Repeat art! LOL

    Thanks for dropping in and passing on that info. I love your art pics on Facebook. :)

    Anita Mae.

  9. Cheryl, when we only had one child (for 12 years) we'd add her school photo to the rest in the hallway. As you walked toward the bedrooms, it was like going back in history to her birth.

    Thank you for reminding me of that. Now that I have a long hallway again, I could make another photo wall. Oh wait - I now have 4 kids - that's a lot of history! LOL

    Thanks for sharing.

    Anita Mae.

  10. Wow!

    Now I'm trying to figure out what now-then picture I ought to take.



  11. Lisa, I was looking at an Ohio book that sounds similar. One repeat photo set caught my eye in particular - one with a wide canal and the other with no sign it had ever existed. Very neat.

    Anita Mae.

  12. Dina, I remember the first time I realized you could 'play' with perspective and that was in Orlando back in 1997. We were at either the Disney MGM or Universal studios and they had a scale model of the shuttle on the launch pad. There were instructions on a sign telling you where to stand - maybe even footprints painted on the cement - and when you stood here and took the photo from there, it looked like you were actually at the Space Center.

    As for the historic aspect, once the photo is snapped, it's history. :D

    Anita Mae.

  13. I'm very excited about next week's post. Some of the photos will be about WWII, both from a European and Canadian standpoint, so if you know anyone who's interested in that era, pass the word, please.

    Thanks, Deb.

    And thank you, Lisa, for giving up your History day next Tues so I can continue with this topic.

    Anita Mae.

  14. I'm so glad you mentioned that, Rhonda, because I hesitated over giving so much information. I mean, I'm talking photography, not architecture. However, my gut instinct said to go with it and so I did.

    Thank you for dropping by today.

    Anita Mae.

  15. Actually Bex, the easiest way for you to see it would be to download Google Earth. It's free and user-friendly. I use it for a large portion of my research. If you go to the first para of this post, you'll see where I link in another post. Click on it and see what Google Earth can do.

    Then, if you have time, check out San Antonio from above and come back and tell us what you found.

    Anita Mae.

  16. Gina... here's a hint from next week's post... look back at the earliest photos of when you moved into your house and use that as a start. If it's a tree, is it beside the same fence or tree as before? If it's a child, do you have the same toy they were holding back then? Same chair they were sitting in? Anything can be changed, but you need something in the re-created photo to prove it was there way-back-when.

    I'd love to see the end result.

    Anita Mae.

  17. This was a really neat post.I really honestly can say that if I were to take repeat pictures here not much of the buildings have changed here since 1970.LOL.

  18. Hey Louise - maybe not the buildings or even the clothes to much of an extent, but I bet the cars and haircuts (or lack thereof) have changed.

    And sometimes it's not the big things, anyway that interest people, but all the little stuff. I remember back in the early 70's when I walked around with a transitor radio glued to my ear. I wore bell bottoms. And (gasp) actually looked like Bobby Sherman. Yes, he was a very handsome guy and that kind of tells you how 'girlie' I was. LOL

    If you look at photos from the 50's and 60's (maybe earlier ?) the electrical outlets are all about 4 ft high. Easy to plug in, but they look horrid in photos.

    And yet, little things like that help date photos.

    To get back to your buildings, if you find some taken in the 70's, check the windows... what do the signs, curtains, or displays look like?

    Thank you for sharing, Louise. You're giving me more ideas for next week's post. :D

    Anita Mae.

  19. Wonderful! I love stuff like this, Anita. I have the opportunity to peruse our archive copies of the weekly paper from 100+ years ago. It's enlightening. Like the article from 1910 about the sudden increase in the popularity of tattoos. When we see things in pictures (or in words) the reality that human nature hasn't changed really sinks in!

  20. Thanks, Niki. I hadn't realized tattoos were that popular way back when. Now, that's interesting. I love checking out old newspapers, too. :D

    Anita Mae.

  21. Good day!This was a really brilliant topic!
    I come from itlay, I was luck to discover your topic in google
    Also I learn a lot in your topic really thanks very much i will come again


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