Friday, January 7, 2011

Echos of the Past

Yesterday I enjoyed a virtual tour of Rainbow Bridge National Monument, led by Ranger Doug Crispin. Through the magic of repeat photography we "walked" in the footsteps of the Cummings-Douglas discovery party and their native guides Nasja Begay and Jim Mike.

Repeat photography is a method by which an older photo is photographed in the scene it originally captured. An example explains it better than words.
1955 Flood and present day - Maitland, NWS Australia
In honor of the centennial of the RBNM, an adventurous group (including the grandson of one of that earliest party) attempted to trace the original route to Natural Bridges, a 19-mile excursion through treacherous Utah scrubland. How could they find the long-lost route the party took when they "discovered" the monument? The answer lay in the photographs the Cummings-Douglas party took to document their travels in 1909. As they ventured out, the 2009 travelers examined the old photos for clues. A gap in a rock, the alignment of a canyon with the peak of a distant mountain, all kinds of physical evidence guided their way. The centennial party documented their own travels, photographing the old photos against the landscape, capturing pictures in pictures. That's repeat photography!

Imagine the investigations kids could make into natural and human environments! Causal relationships, physical landmarks and perspective, photography, human impact, change over time... Imagine how seeking answers to questions about our dynamic world could be more meaningful with repeat photography.

Interested in seeing more, learning tips for repeat photography? My web scan for photos-in-photos and methods didn't yield much. The best examples I've seen so far are Ranger Doug's. The best advice for repeat photography comes from University of Texas instructor Craig Campbell's photography course.

I found some photos I'd like to rephotograph here in my hometown. I look forward to investigating the possibilities. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Jarred Stewart said...

As a history and technology teacher, this is a great idea to help student connect with history in an especially meaningful way. I really enjoy your blog.