This photo essay is a sample of a “rephotography” project in a communication design class taught by Byron Wolfe, a professor at Chico State who has been rephotographing historic photos since 1990. He’s been a major contributor to two books on the subject, has had several rephotography exhibitions, and has more scheduled for the future.
One of the most challenging aspects of rephotographing an image is finding the exact spot where the earlier photographer took the shot. Landmarks change and sometimes disappear altogether. Part of their beauty is being able to retell the story of our surroundings and take the viewer back in time for a moment, however brief that moment may be. Wolfe teaches his students that rephotography is a great way to think about our relationship to the past and, by extension, our place in the present.
“An afternoon walk through Bidwell Park; a river’s flow through centuries past” Not much has changed in Upper Bidwell Park in the past century. The historical photo, taken around 1890 by Henry W. Henshaw, shows water rushing through the canyon.
PHOTO Illustration by Jason Delessert
“Diamond Match Factory in Chico, CA: From Lumber Mill to Nil” In 1915, the Diamond Match Factory was a force to be reckoned with. Located off West 16th Street, away from much of Chico’s homes and businesses, the factory was a hub of industrialization in the region. Pairing the image of the old building with the new landscape (that’s still fairly pristine) is enough to make one wonder what life would be like if the factory was still in use.
PHOTO Illustration by Tony Pellegrini
“Wading Around in Technicolor: A return to the possible site of filming for the original The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Generations of Chicoans have enjoyed the water and nature in Big Chico Creek. One of their favorite tales to tell is when Errol Flynn came to town to film <i>The Adventures of Robin Hood</i> in Bidwell Park. The historical photo, taken in 1938, shows Robin Hood (Flynn) and Friar Tuck (Gene Pallette). To re-create the scene, the photographer matched up landmarks as best she could—still, this is an approximation of where the filming might have taken place.
PHOTO Illustration by Catherine Jewett
“Man on Bike” This piece combines a modern a view of Main Street between Second and Third streets with an identical view from <i>Chico Has Everything</i>, a small photo book from the early 1970s that can be found in Meriam Library’s Special Collections. In the modern view a cyclist crosses the street and possibly through time.
PHOTO Illustration by Kevin Lee
“Another Day on the Steps of Bidwell Presbyterian, Chico, CA” After a fire in 1931, the Chico Presbyterian Church entered a year of reconstruction. The facility was able to reopen in 1932 and was dedicated as Bidwell Memorial Presbyterian Church in honor of its patrons, John and Annie Bidwell. The group of men and women in the original photograph (courtesy of the John Nopel collection) are members of the building committee that took charge of the renovations, which clearly continue to endure.
PHOTO Illustration by Michaela Warthen
“Sycamore Pool: Still ‘One Mile’ Away From the Bidwell Mansion”This rephotography project is a little different from the rest—that’s because instead of just one portion pulled from the past into the present, multiple pieces here are integrated, showing just how much—or little—has changed since J.D. Zink took the original photo around 1920.
PHOTO Illustration by Jesse Woods
“Fleeing the Fire at the Native Daughters’ Building, now The Bear” This historic photo was taken around 1933, during a fire at the Native Daughters of the Golden West building, now Madison Bear Garden. When re-shooting, the photographer experimented with different vantage points until she found the spot closest to where the original photographer stood—in the middle of the street. While avoiding traffic, she was able to capture a shot of the building complete with modern birds flying from The Bear so that when the original photo is superimposed, it appears that the birds are fleeing the fire.
PHOTO Illustration by Cierra Goldstein
“Table Mountain Bridge, Oroville California: Contemplating Mr. & Mrs. Hartman’s carriage ride on a sunny day” The modern photographer’s parents live in Oroville, so she often drives past the historic Table Mountain Bridge and has even filmed a music video on it. Since the original photo was taken, circa 1917, by Edna Swinney Whitter of her relative, America Jane Swinney Hartman, Dee Thao decided to put her own sister in the rephotography to create a relationship between the photos.
PHOTO Illustration by Dee Thao
“Lassen Volcano: Though landscapes may wax and wane, some things will never change” This photograph was taken at the base of Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is a large-scale panorama showing where a man and his dog once stood. A lot of things have changed throughout Lassen since the original photo was taken in 1890, but its beauty remains constant.
PHOTO Illustration by Ben Hintz
“Where Now Meets Normal: The Intersecting Site of Kendall Hall & Chico Normal School” The original photograph was made at the site of the old Normal School. The modern photographer wanted to provide some perspective on where that spot existed on campus, so he used an insurance map to pinpoint the spot where he needed to shoot the photo. The final panorama demonstrates the intersection between Kendall Hall and the historic photo, taken by J.D. Zink c. 1905.
PHOTO Illustration by Jonathan Bohlander