Places

About
Foundation
Partner Schools
Print Archive
Peer Review
Submissions
Donate
Contact


Departments

Critique
Essays
Gallery
Interviews
Multimedia
Partner News
Peer Reviewed
Poetry & Fiction
Projects


Topics

Architecture
Art
Books
Cities + Places
Community
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Film + Video
Food
Geography
Health + Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Infrastructure
Landscape
Photography
Planning
Politics + Policy
Preservation
Public + Private
Reputations
Sustainability
Technology
Transportation
Urbanism
Water



Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Comments Posted 07.11.11 | PERMALINK | PRINT | VIEW SLIDESHOW

Gallery: Mark Klett & Aaron Rothman

Views Across Time


Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, Grand Canyon
From Third View. Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, 2009, “Rectilinear Composition of the South Rim Made from Six Photographs, Four by Alvin Langdon Coburn, ca. 1911." [Inset photos by Alvin Langdon Coburn, collection of the George Eastman House]

Over the past three and a half decades, Mark Klett has pioneered and refined the art of rephotography. In 1977, Klett, with Ellen Manchester and JoAnn Verburg, began the Rephotographic Survey Project, locating the vantage points of iconic 19th-century photographs of the American West and meticulously reframing these views from 100 years prior. The new photographs were published alongside the originals in Second View (1984). Informed by Klett’s training as a geologist and his reaction to the New Topographics exhibition, Second View chronicles human interaction with the landscape and throws into sharp relief the different time scales of human development and geologic change. Twenty years later, Klett and Arizona State University graduate students revisited these landscapes for Third View, Second Sights (2004), which included a DVD with videos, interactive maps, digital panoramas, audio recordings and photographs — materials that moved the experience outside the camera’s frame, linking geography, personal history, media and the mythology of the American West, across multiple points in space and time.

Klett has come to realize that the potential of rephotography is greater than simply tracking change; it can touch on the experience of time itself. For recent projects in Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, he and collaborator Byron Wolfe mined an incredible profusion of imagery — 19th-century photographs and paintings, modernist visions of Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, innumerable postcards and tourist snapshots — to construct spatially cohesive panoramas spanning a century and a half. Through these works, we understand these places as cultural sites whose significance comes from an accumulation of human interventions, interactions and imaginings. Klett has also ventured into urban environments, with an exhibition commemorating the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and panoramas of Barcelona incorporating five centuries of images.




To accompany this slideshow, Places photo editor Aaron Rothman (who helped with video editing on
Third View) interviewed Mark Klett about his rephotography.

Aaron Rothman: You‘ve moved in your work from a subtractive process — creating a single photograph that excludes everything outside the frame — to an additive process — constructing panoramas out of images from multiple sources across many years, decades or centuries. Can you talk about this evolution?

Mark Klett: I think it was a changing understanding of place that prompted the shift in my methods. Working in Yosemite was eye-opening because it’s a place of high image density. Large numbers of photographs were made over time in distinct, concentrated locations. Places like Glacier Point or Lake Tenaya, for example, have been chosen by many, many photographers for over 130 years. The photographs show the same landscape with slight variations in position and framing. The pictures look different, but the landscape itself has hardly changed at all.

I started to see these photographs as overlapping layers in time, much like the layered strata in rock. Each layer represented another moment, and they could be rearranged and compared. They could be placed in sequence or side by side, or one image could be placed over the top of another so that they share features in the landscape. The landscape could be seen to flow across several images stacked in time. The decision about which pictures to use, and how to order them, was more additive than subtractive. I understood that new pictures could be added to an image to create new layers and that new time documents would result.

That’s a fundamentally different kind of process than one which edits out information through the framing and cropping of a single image. The ability to work in multiples — which was really a shift brought about by the tools available in digital photography — created new opportunities. This was in turn reinforced by working with Byron Wolfe, who amplified the process and shared in those decisions.


Rephotographic Survey Project, Clark Creek, ColoradoFrom Second View. Left: William Henry Jackson, 1873, “Moraines on Clear Creek, Valley of the Arkansas, Colorado." [U.S. Geological Survey] Right: Mark Klett and JoAnn Verburg for the Rephotographic Survey Project, 1977, “Clear Creek Reservoir, Colorado.”

AR: : The equipment you used for Second View was not too far removed from what the 19th-century photographers used. Now you are working with Byron to develop interactive projects for the iPad. Does new technology fundamentally change how you understand the experience of landscape?

MK: Technology is a double-edged sword. It’s compelling and useful in the way that new toys inspire play, but it’s also timebound and gets old fast. Technology used for its own sake isn’t very interesting. But in the best situation it can generate new questions and enable you to focus on a subject or an idea; you forget about the bells and whistles.

We have to remember that photography has always been a technology-driven medium. If that weren’t the case, we’d still be making daguerreotypes. What I like about digital processes is how they enable a new kind of experimentation with images. If we hadn’t been able to integrate several photographs into one document we’d never have imagined how they could be reorganized into the various forms of visual mashup we’re exploring now. We wouldn’t have thought, for example, to link the era of exploration to the era of high modernism in a single photograph. The process increased our ability to visualize space and time relationships.

AR: Is there a difference for you between your projects in cities, such as San Francisco or Barcelona, and in national parks such as Yosemite and the Grand Canyon?

MK: Absolutely. In a place like the Grand Canyon little physical change happens in the span of 100 years. That’s hardly the blink of an eye in geological time. Comparing historic photographs of the canyon to the present day view, you’re always looking for minute changes that are hardly visible.

But cities are always changing; even a year can make a huge difference. In San Francisco I worked with the 1906 earthquake and fire photographs, which showed a city destroyed by natural catastrophe and human error. Very little of that city remains, but there’s enough left today that it creates an interesting reversal of the Grand Canyon experience. You have to discover the small parts of the view that are still there — buildings, monuments, streets, trolley lines. It’s a new urban matrix surrounding small artifacts from the past.

Barcelona was especially challenging in that there’s one vantage — Miramar on Montjuïc — that has been used to create panoramic views of the city for almost 500 years. So this is a vantage point of high image density over a long time. But unlike Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, the city has changed so much that each panoramic image represents a city that looks utterly new. I decided to use small pieces of that image history to create a new, layered composite. The parts come from various times but share common buildings and landscape features that can be identified within the wide space of the larger view. The result is like an advent calendar of the city built over centuries, with small windows opening to show another layer of time. The view is the opposite of omnipotent and uniform; rather it’s fragmented, a mashup. I see that as emblematic of how we see the urban world today.

Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Shelter


Motor City Breakdown


The Forgotten Line


Soundscapes: Atlantikwall


Building After Auschwitz



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




Donate to Places: Your Support Makes Our Work Possible



ABOUT THE SLIDESHOW

Selections from the ongoing rephotography project directed by Mark Klett.
View Slideshow >>

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Klett is Regents' Professor of Art at Arizona State University and a contributing editor of Places. His latest book is The Half-Life of History. 
More Bio >>

Aaron Rothman’s photographs, video and installation artwork explore perceptual experience of space in both natural and built environments.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









MORE ON American West


From the American West to West Berlin
On Places, Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern explore the "border crossings" of Wim Wenders — the director's cinematic journeys from Paris, Texas to the West Berlin of The Wings of Desire.

800 Miles: Photographing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
On Places, a portfolio of photographs by Peter Bo Rappmund, who has documented nearly every mile of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Heavy Metal
On Places, photographer Dennis DeHart traces the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes through one of the world's largest and most contaminated historic mining districts.

Look Only at the Movement
On Places, a documentary project by Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth of Smudge Studio, focusing on the materiality of nuclear waste transport.

Walking the Darkness Home
On Places, Adelheid Fischer recounts a journey to the Grand Canyon — to a dangerous and redemptive place that by turns epitomizes and defies the expectations (and clichés) of the famous landscape.

Resurveying the West
On Places, a slideshow of images of the American West by the New York-based photographer Victoria Sambunaris and the 19th-century pioneer William Henry Jackson, curated by Aaron Rothman.

Camino del Diablo
On Places, photographer Mark Klett journeys along the Camino del Diablo in the Sonoran Desert, much of which is now a bombing range, and finds a landscape of forbidding danger and compelling beauty.

Nowhere and Everywhere: The Landscape of the Colorado Delta
On Places, planner Armando Carbonell explores, in aerial photographs, the fragile yet resilient landscapes of the Colorado River Delta.

Above Lake Las Vegas
On Places, aerial photographs of the bankrupt luxury communities of Lake Las Vegas, by Michael Light.

We Are in a Western Town
On Places, Aaron Rothman explores the enduring power of the photographs of Robert Adams, and what they reveal about the paradoxical landscape of the American West.

Drylands: Water and the West
On Places, an essay and slideshow by Peter Arnold and Hadley Arnold of the Arid Lands Institute, on what they call "the largest and least understood environmental challenge of the 21st century."

If There Be Such Space
On Places, a slideshow drawn from a collaborative exhibition by two photographers who share an interest in the perception and representation of natural landscapes.

Thirsty City
On Places, Austin Troy assesses the massive infrastructure required to bring water to the arid American West — and the huge amount of energy that makes it possible to take a shower in Los Angeles.

The Hills Are Alive
On Places, Michael Branch reflects on how deeply photography and film shape our landscape aesthetics (and how much he detests the Alpine-worshipping The Sound of Music).

Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City
On Places, Andrew Ross analyzes the contradictory political and economic forces that once made Phoenix the fastest-growing city in the U.S. — and today a prime casualty of the crash.

Water in the West
On Places, a slideshow from the collaborative photography project Water in the West, with an introduction by Mark Klett.

The Half-Life of History
On Places, writer William Fox and photographer Mark Klett document the semi-ruin of the WW II military airfield at Wendover, Utah, where the U.S. Air Force trained for the bombing of Hiroshima.

The Edge of Light: Wendover
On Places, photographs by Brian Rosa and Adam Ryder document the nighttime mysteries of Wendover, where military history, land-speed racing and the casino industry make for unexpected juxtapositions.

Soundscapes: Burning Man
On Places, a selection of soundscapes — ranging from dust storms to diesel generators — recorded by architect Nick Sowers at the latest Burning Man.

Burning Man and the Metropolis
On Places, Nate Berg looks at Burning Man, and how a beach party in San Francisco mushroomed into a week-long temporary city of 50,000 out in the Nevada desert.

Land, Speed and Bonneville
On Places — coinciding with Speed Week at Bonneville — a gallery created by architect Martin Hogue documents decades of land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats of western Utah.

Las Vegas
Writer and critic William L. Fox reviews Las Vegas, by Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern, probing the improbable success of the gambling-entertainment world-city constructed in the midst of the Mojave.

Urbanizing the Mojave
America's greatest boomtown has gone bust. Architects Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern explore the cultural and environmental consequences of the rapid expansion of Las Vegas into the Mojave Desert, tracing a troubled history of mining, militarization, tourism, and water politics.

MORE BY Mark Klett

07.15.13: Camino del Diablo
10.26.11: Water in the West
09.27.11: The Half-Life of History
09.08.09: Placing Memory
More by Mark Klett >>