1959, a car jumped a sidewalk in Brooklyn, smashed into the wall of a
building, and killed a three-year-old girl who was riding a
tricycle. Today, the damaged bricks of that building are the only
reminder of what happened.
nothing quite like hitting the streets as a photographer for New York's
Picture Newspaper, the Daily News. One never knows what the ensuing
hours will bring as the sounds of the police radio, or the messages
from the assignment editor send you off to the next story. Our
predecessors worked the same streets and saw the same scenes that we do
today, and made photographs that defined an era of tabloid journalism.
In a city as large as New York, the history seems layered, but
invisible. So much has happened in so many places that it's difficult
to imagine that the given street corner we pass daily was the scene of
someone's life-changing event once upon a time. This project was
by the early visual sleuthing of William Frassanito who sought out
locations of photographs taken on the Gettysburg battlefield. Since
then, the work of people like Sergey Larenkov
and Joeri Teeuwisse,
who blend historic pictures of war-torn Europe with modern-day views
of the same locations, has brought the concept of "then-and-now" into
the digital age.
Having covered breaking news since 1997, I shot various
locations throughout the city where both the momentous and routine had
occurred. Using the Daily News' massive photo archive,
I combined the modern scenes with the vintage images that had been
made at those sites. "I had no idea..." was a common reaction of
passers-by when they were shown the original pictures of what had once
transpired at the places where they now walked.
project, then, is meant as a tribute to the New Yorkers—on both sides
of the camera's lens—who have gone before, and as a window into the
past for those who appreciate it.
Critics have been quick to point out imperfections in the results. This
project does not presume to be commercial-grade graphic art. This is an
editorial retrospective. In
the old days of newspapers, prints were retouched by hand, and could be
interpreted as imperfect messes by a discriminating eye. To be trite,
"they are what they are." It
is virtually impossible to create perfect, proportional matches between
old scenes and their modern appearances. I am also limited by the
contents of the original photograph, as well as elements beyond my
control. Architectural lines may have changed, a tree may be in the
way, etc. Thus, I have a choice of either allowing an aesthetically
awkward seam or not using the image at all. Some people prefer to see
an entire rectangular image held in front of a scene; others prefer
people and objects to be silhouetted as though they were cardboard
cut-outs. Both have their appeal, but I have chosen neither. If an edge
does not blend seamlessly, it is irrelevant, as it is part of the
original photograph, and has every right to be there.
Most importantly, to me, is that the work of my predecessors is getting
another look. It is my way of reminding people, too, to realize that
they are part of the same continuum of time, and by seeing these sites
in a familiar, modern way, that the "then" of history is also a "now."