The past and the present are one
August 22, 2013 1:35 AM   Subscribe

Ghosts of the past revisit little-changed streets and avenues of New York City in Famous Daily News photos brought back to life.
posted by flapjax at midnite (19 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The Daily News is awesome, and I had no idea how awesomely wacky it was until I moved to Queens and started seeing it everywhere. It's all the tabloid, hard-hitting fun of the Post without the outright right wing exploitation. I hope it never dies.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:37 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our bedroom window looks out on Sacred Heart; I had no idea that the current church was a rebuild. This is so cool!
posted by saladin at 5:07 AM on August 22, 2013

The picture from 497 Dean St. looks like a still from a silent movie.
posted by pracowity at 5:41 AM on August 22, 2013

My favorite thing is how they superimpose a Revlon ad over the picture of the past superimposed over the present.
posted by xingcat at 5:48 AM on August 22, 2013

So beautiful. A lot of people probably don't give much thought to the interesting things that happened in the places they inhabit every day.

Now, these shots are a lot easier to get in a place where changes take place deliberately and are mapped and documented, but I love sets of photos like this one, which recreate vintage pictures taken of Walt Disney in his park as it exists today (only without Walt, obv.).
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:08 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Neat. My great uncle John was a news photographer for the Daily News from the forties until the late seventies. None of those are his but they're the kind of stuff that he took.
posted by octothorpe at 6:08 AM on August 22, 2013

You can find the originals here.

I like this one:
Theodore A. Clement grimaces while police squeeze his thumbs for a confession in a shooting during a poker game in Glendale, Queens.
posted by pracowity at 6:28 AM on August 22, 2013

My god this city was flammable.
posted by griphus at 6:33 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sunday strolls are still popular in Prospect Park, but on Sunday July 30, 1950, this usually quiet neighborhood was shook by the suicide of Detective Michael Dwyer, seen here.

posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:51 AM on August 22, 2013

I was really enjoying them until I got to the one with the 3 year old who died and her mother being comforted by the priest. Ugh.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:12 AM on August 22, 2013

Very cool! Reminds us how even what seem like every day places are rich with history. Plus it makes NY look like Bioshock Infinite.
posted by helmutdog at 7:42 AM on August 22, 2013

Interesting (and largely unsurprising) to see what a large proportion of these are from Brooklyn. I suspect my old corner at Union & Henry probably looks pretty much the same as it did 60 or 70 years ago, too.
posted by dersins at 8:53 AM on August 22, 2013

My father tried to do something like this about thirty years ago.

In 1946, nine days before his tenth birthday, he was in Atlanta with his mother and brother, having taken the long trek from Thomson, Georgia to visit relatives and attend to some big city business, and when the Winecoff Hotel went up in flames, he was on the sidewalk, just behind photographer Arnold Hardy, who took the iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Daisy McCumber, who'd jumped from the 11th floor (and, despite my father's insistence, survived the fall with serious injuries).

Our cousin, Robert Alvin Fluker, died in the fire in circumstances that a notable book on the subject reported as consorting with questionable elements, a family outrage that is brought up every time my cousins Robert and Roberta see me standing over his grave, twenty feet over from where my namesake, Joseph Belknap Smith, is buried (though I nod in circumspect deference to my older cousins, I sincerely hope he was consorting with questionable elements, because life is just more interesting that way).

It was, for my father, a searing, traumatic moment, and in the early eighties, he decided to replicate the photo in such a way that he could merge the two, now and then, in his darkroom. On a circuitous trip to the southern homeland, we stopped in Atlanta, my father hauled out the Hasselblad, and he took dozens of shots on black and white film, working from distant memory and hoping for the right angle. In the darkroom, I was the assistant, agitating stainless jars with rolls of film, working the developer pans, and my father lined up negatives on the Chromega with a large transparency of the original Hardy photograph that he'd printed on clear stock on our giant K&E stat camera, cutting mattes, working with burning and dodging tools, and otherwise trying to composite a single image of now and then.

It grew increasingly frustrating, and the darkroom was a small enough place that the flares of temper and the overall mood of impossibility finally did us in.

"Goddammit," my father said. "I just can't get it. All my shots are a little off."

"Why are you doing this, again?" I asked, feeling a little bored and frustrated by the day-long project with an uncertain goal. "The building looks almost exactly the same then and now."

"No, it's different. Anyway, I'm trying to capture a sensation."

"Of what?"

"Of the way history is laid up on itself, all the way back."

"Uh, okay."

I didn't get it then, but I was a grumpy teenager with other agendas and aimless interests, and history wasn't so much a place for me as it was a subject to be studied with a certain clinical detachment. These days, I get it. When I was briefly stationed by my job in Atlanta, back in '97, I got it, too, and I'd stand on the sidewalk by the Winecoff, just behind Arnold Hardy and my almost ten year-old father, and I couldn't see Daisy McCumber on her way down, but I knew she was there, a fixed track in the jittery cloud of observational perspectives, passing time, and probability, forever falling to injury and eventual safety where one hundred nineteen other people never made it out.

A few years ago, I drove down to Atlanta for my uncle's funeral, closing out the last of the old nuclear family from the house on Jackson Street, Thomson, and I paused, driving by the hotel in Atlanta, but did not stop.

Hello Dad, hello Daisy, hello Arnold.

In the digital world, we can make these moments incarnate and seemingly real, and it is a wonderful way to remind ourselves of all the tracks and and traces and layers and clouds of possibilities, probabilities, and different renditions of the same moment, seen from other angles, but even without the images for proof it's all still there—stories waiting to be told and heard.
posted by sonascope at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2013 [9 favorites]

My favorite thing is how they superimpose a Revlon ad over the picture of the past superimposed over the present.

for me, the superimposed ads were for the toyota venza, with a small image of the car (and banner) that popped up, covering the bottom 1" of the images. a very unfortunate coincidence for toyota, as many of the images were of car wrecks, and the venza was right in there with them. over and over. oh, advertising.
posted by rude.boy at 9:51 AM on August 22, 2013

From looking at the originals, I wonder if culture/permissions have changed? A lot of those old photos seem to be on the scene of some grisly stuff...with the police standing around.

These days, you can't get anywhere near crime scenes (well, maybe some court events). In the past few decades, I don't recall ever seeing crime scene photos like those old ones.

So did police procedural change or did it become a newspaper/cultural "rule" to not publish those kinds of photos?

(Or maybe I live on the left coast and don't see those kinds of newspapers?)
posted by CrowGoat at 9:55 AM on August 22, 2013

I'm kind of darkly thrilled that they did the photo of the Sterling Place plane crash. Mr. Mooseli and I lived on that exact block, maybe 50 feet from the site of that photo, for six months and only learned of the disaster about four months in. There's such a terrible frisson when you stand on your street in the exact spot of a catastrophic tragedy the photos of which you've just wasted your afternoon looking up on Wikipedia. We were talking about it, pointing out buildings that were clearly destroyed in the photographs, when someone walking by overheard us and recounted the story of how he had witnessed the event as a child, and how the nice old man who swept the stoop of the church across the street had been one of the few casualties on the ground.

Man. Sometimes New York gets so real, amirite?
posted by Mooseli at 10:43 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow, these then-and-now photomagic things always absolutely fascinate me and at the same time also completely set me back on my heels with the cold and insistent reminder of the evanescence of life, and how everything I know and understand will soon be as quaint and removed as the original images of the old subbed-in photo fragments seem to us... which is, yeah, pretty much the point, I realize. It works!

Also, while trying to find out the story behind the detective who committed suicide in Prospect Park (total fail there; does anyone know?), by the way, I came across this NY Noir gallery of Daily News photos, which sent me down a whole pile of rabbit holes for quite a while.
posted by taz at 11:56 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

So did police procedural change or did it become a newspaper/cultural "rule" to not publish those kinds of photos?

Oh, definitely both, but mostly the latter, where the former is simply an enforcement mechanism that also serves to protect the thin blue line.

I clearly remember this becoming more and more taboo throughout my life, with specific news photographs being considered exploitative, and lawsuits springing up, along with all sorts of letters-to-the-editor pushback. I would never have lambasted my genteel hometown newspaper as profiteering with "it bleeds it leads" but that may not have applied very well to mass-circulation urban papers and certainly they provided more attractive lawsuit targets.

This goes along with the right to privacy as a legal principle, which grew in certain ways from Roe v. Wade surprisingly enough, so post-dated that ruling.

I like to use a principle that people are generally the same in critical ways wherever or whenever they are, but cultures can look drastically different (viz. Mad Men). So I imagine the subjects of those Weegee-era photos [by the way, those were very much an outgrowth of technology in the form of portable electric-flash cameras, much as the digital camera and camera phone are revolutionizing privacy in a somewhat similar direction today] probably got ticked off in their own ways, but perhaps culturally in the 1940s, say, the institutions of the police and newspapers held much more implicit authority and were less likely to be challenged. And of course, in general, challenging authority is also culturally impelled, with various civil rights and political movements driving an overall populist viewpoint.
posted by dhartung at 2:16 AM on August 23, 2013

There's a wonderful book from Minnesota called Murder Has a Public Face: Crime and Punishment in the Speed Graphic Era which discusses the astonishing access that news photographers had back in the early era of photojournalism. Some of it has to do with a different sensibility -- far more graphic images were considered acceptable then. Some of it has to do with a changing sense of privacy. And some if it has to do with a change in the way crime scenes are treated, as a result of advances in crime scene investigation, where you don't really want a photographer stomping all over your crime scene.

I actually quite liked a film called The Public Eye, starring Joe Pesci as, essentially, Weegee, which also detailed the bravura of a lot of these early crime scene photographers, who often would show up before any police did and sometimes would rearrange a crime to make it aesthetically more pleasing. Those guys were sometimes flat out nuts.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:38 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

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