Dear Photograph: 22-year-old starts a ‘new-age nostalgic’ storytelling movement

Not long ago, we came upon a concept that immediately resonated with us: A Web site that urges users to blend the past and present together using photography.  It’s a notion very similar to our Houstory Hearth post from March (“Bring your home’s history to life using these simple photo tips“). In that article, we talked about the magic of shooting pictures of your house from a similar vantage point to one done in the past, and then blending the images together. The results were impressive and fascinating.

Dear Photograph, nostalgia, photography, family stories, genealogy, preservation

Dear Photograph, the book, features more than 200 photos submitted readers.

Dear Photograph, which was started by 22-year-old Taylor Jones, urges a similar call to action — except with more of a focus on people. No digital manipulation is required, as submitters simply hold up a current photo against the background of an older photo — lining up the angles as best as possible — and snapping a shot of that image. These juxtapositions are not only fun, but also elicit a lot of emotion .

Maybe it’s revisiting the site of your senior photo and reenacting a similar scene 20 years later, or going back to grandma’s dining room to take an updated photo of a family dinner 30 years past.

Listen to a story on Dear Photograph — including how Jones developed the idea (spoiler alert: Winnie the Pooh was involved) —  from earlier this week .

Over the past year — since the conception of the project — thousands of people have contributed photos to his blog, and earlier this month he published a book entitled “Dear Photograph” highlighting some of these photos.

The project is a modern-day testimony to the power of storytelling — and preserving legacy.  If you’d like to contribute photos, you can do so at http://dearphotograph.com.

UPDATE: Genealogist and family historian Caroline Pointer (www.4yourfamilystory.com) pointed out Dear Photograph’s similarity to another site – HistoryPin.com – which we wrote about last October (“New site allows millions chance to explore the past, share the present). Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Caroline!

Bring your home’s history to life using these simple photo tips

By Rick Read — Special to the Houstory Hearth

Occasionally, the Houstory Hearth will feature guest authors who have knowledge and expertise related to the world of Houstory Publishing. This week, we feature Rick Read. Rick has nearly 40 years of experience as an award-winning TV producer. He is also an avid still photographer and genealogist and was, for five years, the research aide for the Whatcom Genealogical Society (Washington state).

One of the great aspects of the Home History Book archival journal is that it encourages you to take note of the changes that occur in your home over time. And what better way to demonstrate those changes than to compare old and recent photos – “then” and “now” photos. You can make the comparison even more dramatic by taking your “now” photo from the exact location at which the “then” photo was snapped. I will refrain from becoming too detailed here.

If you want the details, check out this great Web site.

I am using a “then” photo furnished by Jeff Jewell of the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash. (There’s an interesting story about this photo – I hope to share it with you in the future.) The first thing you’ll want to do with your “then” photo is to scan it and print a large black and white “work print.” This print will become your guide for lining up your “now” photo. Printing in black and white will also help you focus on the details of the photo.

Take a close look at the photo. Note the relationships of features that might still exist today:

  1. How the front left part of the porch exposes the house behind the subject house
  2. How the vertical end of the porch railing (on which the young boy is sitting) lines up with the window behind the rail
  3. How much of the building in the back right of the subject house is exposed

You may find it helpful to draw a grid pattern over your “then” photo. The horizontal and vertical lines can be helpful when lining up your “now” shot. Avoid using relationships to transient items, such as the height or width of a tree. You’ll quickly discover that these relationships will only lead to frustration.  Another thing about vegetation: winter can be a better time for taking “now” photos, as any leaves that block your subject will be gone.

THEN PHOTO — CLICK TO ENLARGE 1995.0001.019938; photo by Jack Carver; courtesy Whatcom Museum

Once you’ve made note of several physical relationships on your “then” picture, you’re ready to take your “now” shot. You will find a tripod especially helpful for this process. It’s tough to hold your camera in one hand and your “then” photo in the other, while trying to get the shot lined up properly. Keep in mind, too, that the position from which the “then” photographer took his photo may have changed. He may have positioned himself on a hill that is long gone, or he may have been standing in what is now the middle of the street. (You might want to take a partner with you to serve as a lookout.)

When you’ve found that “sweet’ spot, click away. Take a few shots, move slightly and take a few more. Continue to refer to your “then” shot, as you make adjustments. You can present your finished photos side by side or as a blended image.

Check these Web sites for more examples:

* Leningrad Seige — Then and Now

* Normandy 1944 — Then and Now

NOW PHOTO — CLICK TO ENLARGE

Whichever display method you choose, you’ll have some great images to add to your Home History Book archival journal and to share with future owners of your home.

If you have knowledge in a topic our readers may be interested in — such as historical preservation, home genealogy or homes in general — and are interested in writing a guest column for us, please let us know! Contact us at info@homehistorybook.com.