Merging Time: A Modern Perspective

The popular photography exhibit, Merging Time, is now showing at the City of Vancouver Archives gallery. This year’s collection features 13 new “now-and-then” interpretations of images from the Archives holdings.

A member of the public views the Merging Time: A Modern Perspective photography exhibit. Photo credit: Christine Hagemoen.

A member of the public views the Merging Time: A Modern Perspective photography exhibit. Photo credit: Christine Hagemoen.

Every fall, the Archives features new works created by students in Langara College’s Photo-Imaging Program. Students are assigned to visit the Archives to find photographs with unique elements defining the past, such as fashion, transportation, advertising, and storefront signage. Then, with a DSLR camera, they return to the original location of the archival photograph to shoot a modern-day version. The students merge a digital version of the archival photograph with the modern-day replication to produce a composite of the past and present. This year’s selections date from the 1900s to the 1950s, and feature the West End, Gastown, Chinatown, downtown Vancouver, UBC and Mount Pleasant.

Archival photograph selected by Courtney Naesgaard for the Merging Time exhibit. Street traffic at Pender Street and Richards Street, 1946. Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4225.

Archival photograph selected by Courtney Naesgaard for the Merging Time exhibit. Street traffic at Pender Street and Richards Street, 1946. Reference code: AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4225.

The main challenge the students face is figuring out where and how each photograph was taken. Sometimes the original photograph may have been taken with the camera in the middle of the road or where a new building now stands. Determining the focal length and angle of the shot further complicates the process of matching the current-day image with the original perspective. This is where the techniques taught in the course come into play. Using Photoshop, the students adjust the perspective of their modern-day image to match the framing and composition of the original archival photograph.

Digital composite by Courtney Naesgaard, 1946/2015. Street traffic at Pender Street and Richards Street, incorporating Archives image AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4225.

Digital composite by Courtney Naesgaard, 1946/2015. Street traffic at Pender Street and Richards Street, incorporating Archives image AM1545-S3-: CVA 586-4225.

Once the perspective is matched, students block, mask, blend and merge the past and present elements into a single photograph. The result is a seamless digital composite where the two eras converge and are presented simultaneously.

Archival photograph selected by Amberlee Pang for the Merging Time exhibit. Hotel Balmoral, Hastings Street, c. 1926. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Hot N35.

Archival photograph selected by Amberlee Pang for the Merging Time exhibit. Hotel Balmoral, Hastings Street, c. 1926. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Hot N35.

This returning photography show is the Archives’ most popular exhibit, and we are always thrilled to see how artists apply their creative skills to the digitized material in our holdings.

Digital composite by Amberlee Pang, c.1926/2015. Hotel Balmoral, Hastings Street, incorporating Archives image AM54-S4-: Hot N35.

Digital composite by Amberlee Pang, c.1926/2015. Hotel Balmoral, Hastings Street, incorporating Archives image AM54-S4-: Hot N35.

Merging Time: A Modern Perspective will be on display at the Archives until the end of January, 2016. Please visit during our regular hours: Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.

For those who are unable to attend the gallery in person, you can view the Merging Time exhibit in this Langara College flickr album.

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