In case you missed “Then and Now” photographic projects, they offer amazing portals to the past. You can see Victorian Era Places, then and now.
Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland bombed around the world at what were often considered like break-neck speeds for the Victorian Era. In order to stay on course, they had to bypass many of the great landmarks of their day. Among them was the newly erected Eiffel Tower (1889), which Bly sacrificed to make time to meet Jules Verne.
While the “Then and Now” projects are all unique, the common thread is that photographers merge historic photos with contemporary images taken from the same vantage point. The results are often astonishing, eerie and haunting.
Happily, while time brings obvious changes in fashion, transportation and architecture, many of the landmarks remain remarkably untouched by a century or more. In many cases, particularly in the various war series, places have healed and even improved with time.
As posted in The Guardian.com, photographer David Levene journeyed back in time, in search of the original locations of several iconic photographs taken during the Civil War.
Levene started with glass negatives scanned and stored at the Library of Congress in high resolution. His brilliant collection offers a look into America devastated by war 150 years ago.
Practical photography was in its infancy when the Civil War broke out. Photographers who documented the war strove to include people in their photographs wherever possible. If necessary, they dragged bodies of dead soldiers into the shot. Exposures typically required one or two seconds. To avoid motion-blur, “set-ups” were a common practice.
You can interact with two other collections in the Guardian.com, one featuring shots from WWI and the second from WWII. You can move through time by tapping or clicking on the historic image to reveal the modern view. The result can be both haunting and exhilarating.
The technique of making a new photo exactly match the point-of-view of an old photo is known as perspective matching photography or computational rephotography.
The task of rephotography is tedious and often imprecise, because reproducing the viewpoint of the original photograph is tricky at best. According to WIRED magazine, “the rephotographer must disambiguate between the six degrees of freedom of 3D translation and rotation, and the confounding similarity between the effects of camera zoom and dolly.”
The good news is that researchers at MIT found a way to automate the process. Now, with a camera app, you can easily go back in time. It shouldn’t be too difficult to place Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland at the Eiffel Tower.
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