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Now and Then at the Grand Canyon

A recent post on Slate profiled Photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe’s new book: Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, published in October by University of California Press. They spent five years focusing on past and present images of the Grand Canyon to create a intriguing viewpoint of one of America’s most popular natural wonders.

Rephotography is a tool used in science, primarily by geologists where images are taken from the exact same vantage point then compared to see what level of change and erosion has taken place. Rephotography is also being used by glaciologists to record the now rapid shrinking icecaps and glaciers. Both Klett and Wolfe come from science backgrounds (Klett in geology and Wolfe in biology and anthropology).

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They met when Wolfe was one of Klett’s grad students in photography. Once they picked the Grand Canyon as a subject, they began the massive undertaking of choosing locations; hording source imagery they found online, in museums, and postcards from antique stores; and eventually coming up with the best intersections between the various old and new materials. The historical image is placed directly over their new photograph of the old location, thereby hiding the very information rephotography would normally provide. By doing this, they also create an entirely new landscape, one in which a window into the past has been opened and time passing can be seen as only part of the story.

Klett and Wolfe’s project is a large and time consuming undertaking, one that reveals something entirely new about the various vantage point of the canyon.

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