March 28, 2005
Repetition is a form of change


There are few things I find as conceptually perfect and aesthetically satisfying as rephotography, first practiced to notable effect by the Rephotographic Survey Project -- Mark Klett, Ellen Manchester, JoAnn Verburg, et al. -- beginning in 1977, and published in "Second View," 1990. Klett and company "owned the space" for at least a decade, and have published a followup, the faintly awkward (odd vs. even, I think) but still compelling Third View, and an accompanying full-featured website.

But they don't own the space anymore -- there has been a great flowering of rephotography, in books and on the web. There is, for example, Douglas Revere's New York Changing, a revisiting of Berenice Abbott's Changing New York; and Wisconsin Then and Now, featuring J. Shimon & J. Lindemann, among other photographers. In a stranger way and, now that I look at it slower, a more intense way, Nicholas Nixon's The Brown Sisters is a rephotographic project, too, 25 years on now; though with that logic some other typologies start to get lumped in, but let's just stick with Nixon for now, and don't miss those pictures. There are amateurs and near-amateurs on the hunt, too: "Steve and Carol" in Winston-Salem, and some uncredited folks in Boise.

What got me on this subject was the Atget Rephotographic Project, and the comparison of those (uncredited?) photographs to the work of Klett et al. It is the difference between Paris and the West, between Atget and O'Sullivan (et al.); it is the difference between two ideas of change.

And where it really led me was Rebecca Solnit's short essay on working with Klett et al.; as always, Solnit says it better than almost anyone else, and certainly me. "...the perception that nothing is happening usually means that the observer is moving faster than the observed;... One could think of the mind as akin to photographic paper. It takes time. It takes a long exposure, generally, for something to make an impression, which suggests that we who are so busy go around blank, unimpressed. Painters, photographers, fishers, and birdwatchers, among others, seem to have developed their pursuits in part as sidelong strategies to do nothing, to be in a place long enough to see it. ... as the world comes to resemble a factory more and more, every act of lingering, of deep engagement, of doing nothing, of neither producing nor consuming according to any marketable rate, is a metaphysical work slowdown."

Posted by dbrown at March 28, 2005 10:28 PM

I'd like to draw attention to my own practice which takes rephotography into digital and time-based mediums. My work to date has been located within historical sites in Germany and the North East of England. I am interested in the direction that rephotography is headed, as tool of time-travel, documenting and archiving the world around us. My portfolio and journal is

Posted by: Peter David Hamilton on June 1, 2006 06:59 PM
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