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The story behind our new ‘Picturing History’ series

central market

I started the Picturing History project earlier this year at The Evening Sun in Hanover.

The idea behind the project was simple: Try to visually represent the change that has happened in the communities I was covering.

“As journalists, we look for change on a daily basis. But sometimes the most interesting change happens slowly, one day at a time, one street front or light pole or paved entrance. Many drops make a bucket, as the saying goes.

“Sometimes the most far-reaching change happens and it’s hard to see because it’s happened slowly and then been there all along. So what does that change look like? What’s the big picture?” I wrote at the time.

York County has a diverse history and many areas have reinvented themselves as time has past. Other areas look much the same.

You can see the first installment of the project here.

The project combines history and photography with a modern twist and is an endeavour that is definitely suited to our digital efforts. It would be difficult if not impossible to simulate the interactive experience of comparing old photos with their modern counterparts in a print product.

You might notice the two photos don’t match up exactly. Photojournalist Paul Kuehnel explains why:

“Telephoto and wide angle lenses existed in the 19th century. We can duplicate the numerical value of the lens (like 24 mm) but how lens makers mastered distortion was an evolution and still varies today particularly when you compare wide angle lenses and zooms.

“It is also difficult to replicate the type of lens used and where the photographer was standing in relation to the focal point of the scene.

“Examples: A telephoto can bring you closer to a building, but so can walking nearer to it. The perspective of the vertical angles changes in the photograph depending on the distance and lens used. A wide angle may allow you to get more of the building in the photo, but it also spaces out between what is in the foreground and the background. The telephoto compress space, like when buildings are squeezed together in telephoto shot down a street.

“Also, where the photographer stood may not be available for the new photo if something was built where the historical photo was shot so you may have to improvise.

“A combination of distance from the scene, the type of lens used (mm) and the distance from the ground that the picture was taken replicates the historical photo.

“The preview window of a digital camera goes a long way in matching up your trials with a printed photo. It is always good to have a printed photo on hand while you are shooting a new photo.”