Arizona Then and Now
April 28, 2008 6:12 AM   Subscribe

Arizona Then and Now -- When paired with vintage images of the 19th and 20th centuries, Arizona photographers Allen Dutton and Paul Scharbach's modern-day images reveal the changes that have shaped the state's landscape during the past 100-plus years. They searched the state to locate the precise spots from which to rephotograph the scenes captured by their predecessors, endeavoring to achieve the same angles, perspectives, and lighting as in the early photographs.
posted by netbros (17 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Amazing growth!? What happened to Pinal City, Ajo, Clarkston/Rowood, Kelvin and Swansea. Nice post. I love then and nows.
posted by tellurian at 6:25 AM on April 28, 2008

Looks about the same to me, except, what happened to the Colorado river? Looks much smaller in the 'now' pictures.
posted by delmoi at 6:29 AM on April 28, 2008

...and then posted them as tiny thumbnails.

What I can see looks pretty cool, though.
posted by DU at 6:33 AM on April 28, 2008

Hmmm... Seems to be something happening in Scottsdale. Must travel back in time and maybe pick up a few-acre patch.
posted by Mike D at 6:35 AM on April 28, 2008

Awesome. It's amazing to see what looks to be undisturbed land where a town or, at least, mill or mine used to be.
posted by notsnot at 6:38 AM on April 28, 2008

John Fielder did this exact thing in beautiful ole Colorado a few years ago. His work makes a great coffee table book, and browsing these sorts of images is really something that needs done with great big high resolution images. I've lost myself for whole afternoons staring at these sorts of photos!

And of course, as everyone knows Colorado is far superior to Arizona
posted by barnacles at 6:53 AM on April 28, 2008

His work makes a great coffee table book

Dutton and Scharbach have coffee table books of their comparison works as well. I agree, the large scale, high-res images in the books make it a lot more interesting. I was hoping the Arizona PBS site would have clickable thumbnails to the larger photos. No such luck. Perhaps they will see this thread and enhance their feature for the upcoming centennial.
posted by netbros at 7:04 AM on April 28, 2008

Springerville got the McDonald's. Great post, I sent the link to my Arizona friends, thanks!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:10 AM on April 28, 2008

I could look at these all day. I like the mouseover effect, which you obviously can't get from the print version. I just wish the photos were larger. Some other good rephotography sites - Atlanta Time Machine, Springfield Rewind, and Port Townshend. There's also one for the movie Vertigo.
posted by Ref72 at 7:12 AM on April 28, 2008

tellurian, those were mining towns. Out here in the late 1800s, mining towns would spring up practically overnight, and often would thrive, but only for a very short time. When the ore dried up, the company would leave town, and people who needed work didn't stick around. The desert out here is littered with places that were once boomtowns and now have very little trace that anyone lived there, let alone several thousand people. Many of these places had a town cemetery, which can sometimes still be found fairly easily.

Ajo is still around, but the mine is long since closed. It's become a retirement town. Retirees come for cheap housing and proximity to the beaches in Rocky Point, Mexico. It's two hours from any major cities, however, and summer temperatures can clear 120 degrees F. But it is a colorful place and a lot of the old architecture is still intact. Bisbee also is still around; it's modstly an art community now. However, since copper is hovering near $4.00 a pound, the possibility of re-opening the mine there is being seriously considered.

delmoi, the Colorado River is a lot smaller now. These pictures were taken before Glen Canyon, Hoover, Davis, Parker, and Imperial dams were built, and before water started being pumped to locations hundreds of miles distant. The river doesn't reach the Gulf of California anymore since so much of the water is spoken for by then.
posted by azpenguin at 7:20 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, there is actually less there now!
posted by zeoslap at 7:27 AM on April 28, 2008

The art of photography seems to have declined enormously.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:22 AM on April 28, 2008

Fun post with some great contributions in the comments. I teach history and I am going to do this with my students next semester.
posted by LarryC at 9:48 AM on April 28, 2008

Nice collection of these photos.

I'm always impressed by both extremes, how some places in Arizona turned from nowhere to large communities. For example, I remember when Anthem, AZ, and a substantial portion of the Southeast Valley (Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, etc, were all bare desert.

Meanwhile, what used to be very large communities or neighborhoods are completely gone. For example, a large fraction of Bisbee was consumed by an open pit mine, and several other mining towns have been reduced to bare desert.

An interesting contrast.
posted by kaszeta at 11:32 AM on April 28, 2008

what happened to the Colorado river?

As mentioned above, the river was "tamed" by damming and increased usage.

While usage levels are what they are, taming the river was not an altogether terrible idea. The Colorado was a violent river, prone to unusual annual flooding -- for example, the Salton Sea was created by Colorado flooding.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:56 AM on April 28, 2008

Well, the Salton Sea was created by Colorado flooding, but the extent of that flooding would've been minor if it weren't for the large canals dug by the California Development Company. The Salton depression flooded several times, but it wasn't until the canal construction that the potential for such widescale flooding existed.
posted by kaszeta at 12:09 PM on April 28, 2008

I remember taking Apache Trail out to the lakes twenty years ago when part of it was still a dirt road. I'm actually pretty glad they put in a two-lane road through the mountains and added a guard rail here and there, to tell you the truth.
posted by padraigin at 12:41 PM on April 28, 2008

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