Capturing New York’s Past and Present

These are fantastic.

OK, so maybe that image doesn’t quite express why this NYC Grid page is so fantastic. But it does contain the seeds of said fantasticness. See that yellow slider in the middle? If you go to the site itself, you can actually shift that slider from side to side, and reveal/conceal the “Before and After” images as you do so. Capturing the past and the present in a single moment, and visually representing the passage of time without any actual movement. (Yes, yes. The slider is moving. I concede. Still, really cool stuff!)

I’ll admit, I have a slight obsession with the past – how time changes or preserves select things fascinates me. So, when we recently came across a handful of slides that my grandfather took while in New York City in 1961, I was more than just a little excited. For the past month or so, I’ve been looking at his photos with great interest – mainly just trying to re-construct the locations and route he walked through midtown as he took these images. I realized the best way to experience this would be to re-visit the spots myself. So, with camera in-hand I went out over the past week and did my best to photograph, in the same manner, all the locations in his original photos. Some were easier than others, and a few were down-right impossible. But it was quite amazing to stand in, what I could only assume was, the exact same location my grandfather stood almost 50 years ago.

So, it’s with a lot of excitement that I offer up the results of my trek, side-by-side with the originals.

The fellow responsible for this little slice of genius is named Paul Sahner, and since dedicating the site in 2008 to “documenting and investigating elements of the city that interest me,” he’s shot nearly 30,000 photos of over 500 blocks. They’re not all of the “Before and After” variety, but still…wow.

(If I go missing over the next few days, it’s because I’ve vanished down a 30,000-picture-wide rabbit hole. You’ll have to go on without me.)

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.


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