Shawn Clover

For the past two weeks, Los Angeles has experienced some sharp jolts– earthquakes that have been centered a little too close to home.  It was after one of these events that I happened upon  Shawn Clover‘s project, 1906 + Today: The Earthquake Bend, where he has created photographs that span a hundred years.
After reading San Francisco is Burning, Dennis Smith’s superb
book of San Francisco’s reaction to the 1906 earthquake, I got to
thinking. What if I could precisely line up photos taken in 1906 with my
own and combine the two together? I’ve always been frustrated by
typical “then and now” photos because the photographer always seems to
do a sloppy job aligning his ’then’ photos with the ‘now’ photos.

Now comes the fun part. Where was the exact spot the photographer
stood? What was the equivalent focal length of his camera’s lens
combined with the film medium? How high off the ground was the camera?
Where was the sun in the sky?
Everything needs to be precise when
layering two photos on top of each other. My original idea was to tear
away a piece of the modern photo to expose the 1906 photo, but after
playing around a bit, everything seemed more interesting when the two
were softly blended together.

To put these photos together, I first create a catalog of historical photos that look like they have potential to be blended. Unfortunately most of these photos end up on the digital cutting room floor because there’s simply no way to get the same photo today because either a building or a tree is in the way. Once I get a good location, I get everything lined up just right. My goal is to stand in the exact spot where the original photographer stood. Doing this needs to take into account equivalent focal length, how the lens was shifted, light conditions, etc. I take plenty of shots, each nudged around a bit at each location. Just moving one foot to the left changes everything.