In one Then and Now Photography image, a group of workers is gathered on the unfinished Michigan Street bridge across the Milwaukee River. Behind them, a little faded, is the skywalk that connects a Chase Tower to its parking structure. But those buildings didn’t yet exist when this photo was taken. Or did they?
The photo in question was taken in 1905 ... and 2013.
The photomontages created by the Eau Claire photography gallery seamlessly meld images of the same place but from different eras, creating a fascinating and unique look at how familiar sites in Milwaukee have changed over the years.
"Our Then & Now project began as a welcoming ‘unveiling’ of our local street in Eau Claire for our newly opened Portrait Gallery," says Then and Now’s Jacob Sieg. "The idea spun from that night into its own singular venture. We've always appreciated how time changes places and people, and this was a great way to represent that change!"
You can check out the Milwaukee images at thenandnowstore.com, where you will also see montages featuring City Hall, The Pabst Theater, the Central Library, the Court of Honor, The Pabst and 100 East Wisconsin buildings, and other landmarks. You can buy the Milwaukee prints here.
Then and Now has also created these time-traveling images for Las Vegas, Madison, Chicago, Duluth and a variety of Wisconsin cities, including Chippewa Falls, Wausau, Menomonie and Stevens Point.
"From start to finish, a single project can take anywhere between 25 and 40 hours, roughly," says Sieg. "This includes planning, research, travel, re-photographing, and finally the last step of merging the two time frames together as one. This step takes the longest."
Unsurprisingly, making two images into one comes with a variety of challenges that go beyond simply finding the original vantage point and recreating the proper angle.
"By far the biggest challenge is recreating the old photograph -- with accurate scale and perspective," Sieg says. "Changing times leads to changing technology -- cameras record images much different than they once did -- and closing this gap between old and new cameras is by far the most challenging aspect."
But the first step, Sieg says, is identifying what to feature in these photographs. With so much work involved in creating the photomontage, Sieg has to select scenes that will capture the imaginations of the most viewers.
"We've found that the most powerful aspect of our artwork, to the public, is when that viewer has an emotional tie or connection to the location -- a memory that is held dearly to them," he says." We try to focus our efforts towards most commonly known locations of that particular cities history. Monuments, alumni and downtown city scenes score at the top of ours lists.
"Sometimes we come across a particular photograph that is either unique in its own way, has a comedic aspect or simply is just a well composed photograph, and we will make sure to seek that location out when we do our re-photography leg of the project."
In addition, Sieg says Then and Now accepts custom projects commissioned by customers.
"We diligently accept custom projects," he says, "as they often lead to the most unique finished products, since the old photograph is rare and unseen by the public."
As for the Milwaukee images, of which there are currently nine for sale on Then and Now’s website, Sieg says they’re popular; popular enough that more may be on tap soon.
"Our Downtown Milwaukee series is definitely one of our best series thus far," he says. "Its scope is wide, covering a wide aspect of old Milwaukee. The artwork itself was methodical and well thought-out, with adequate time used to merge and sculpt the artwork into perfection. It also helped that the weather was beautiful when we were doing our re-photography part.
"Be on the lookout for a few more of Milwaukee -- a couple local breweries, the lakefront, and possibly Miller Park. 2015 holds more opportunities. Only time will tell."
To inquire for custom project contact Then and Now Photography at firstname.lastname@example.org or (715) 514-9052.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.