Photos

San Francisco's 1906 Earthquake Sneaks Into Present-Day Photos

Then and now, all in one image.

Image
Shawn Clover

The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 marked a turning point in the history of American urban disasters. Unlike the Chicago Fire of 1871, another catastrophic leveling of a major U.S. city., the 1906 quake was captured by legions of amateur and professional photographers. The level of destruction was fastidiously recorded, providing material for the many powerful then-and-now images that have become a signature of S.F. earthquake history and a testament to the city's power to rebuild.

But until Shawn Clover started his 1906 + Today Mashup project two years ago, then and now had existed solely as a matter of juxtaposition. Clover has since carefully brought the past and present together in the same images. There were a number of details to consider, and the replica photographs had to be precise: "Where was the exact spot the photographer stood? What was the equivalent focal length of his camera’s lens combined with the film medium? How high off the ground was the camera? Where was the sun in the sky?"

Last month, Clover released the second installment of his photo mash-ups. Prints will be available for sale soon. Whether you missed them the first time around or not, these are worth a look:

All images courtesy of Shawn Clover.

About the Author

  • Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.