Posted by: David Vernon | March 15, 2010

The Accidental Rephotographer

I’ve been having a bit of jones lately to do a Rephotography project. You know the concept: find an old image of a place and return to that place now and rephotograph it as it exists now. Compare and contrast. Viva lé differencé.

I’ve found the concept of rephotographing a site fascinating since my old college buddy and current Northern Arizona University History Professor Dr. Mike Amundson did a rephoto project as part of his Master’s in History at the University of Wyoming back in the 1980s. Mike dragged a big view camera around Wyoming for a year revisiting old abandoned mine sites. It’s amazing just how much decay works its way in when people leave things behind.

The Library of Congress has a great photo steam on Flickr. It’s part of a bigger collection referred to as the Flickr Commons – a vast repository of historical and generally copyright-free images on Flickr. The LOC, in recognition of the upcoming St. Patrick’s holiday, posted 100 or so images made between 1890 and 1900 in Ireland and I looked through them (the big Ireland sucker that I am), I recognized many spots. It turns out I HAVE done a rephotography project – I just didn’t know it at the time.  Call me the Accidental Rephotographer.

So without further adieu, take a look at the images in the LOC’s collection from the late 1800s and then my examples of the same spots, taken in 2005, just over 100 years later.

The iconic Cliffs of Moher. I was somewhere just to the right of the original photograph and higher (and I happened to be vertical). All of the exposed stone is still there as are the lack of fences (when we were there). The table however… not so much. Since it is geologic I wouldn’t expect much change over 100 years.

Library of Commons - Ireland's Cliffs of Moher, County Claire, circa 1890

My Cliffs of Moher - June 2005

We were blown away by Muckross Abbey in Killarney National Park. We explored the ruins for a couple hours one evening and had the place pretty much to ourselves. I was more straight on to the back of the abbey and the ivy had been significantly cleaned up. I was again vertical.

Library of Commons - Ireland's Muckross Abbey, County Kerry, circa 1890

Less ivy, same chunk still missing from the tower

The Blackwater River at Lismore in South Central Ireland. I was standing on the bridge in this image when I took my photo and the best that I can remember this bridge is still THE bridge after 100 years. The LOC shot was taken from the ground at Lismore Castle, which we had just toured. I hiked down to the bridge in front of a rainstorm to get a shot of the river, just where the creek empties into the main branch. Big shock – I went vertical again.

Library of Congress - Ireland's Blackwater River in Lismore, County Waterford, circa 1890

The Blackwater River from the bridge beneath Lismore Castle - June 2005

The final three images were all taken on the same day, as we toured the beautiful Killarney National Park in County Kerry. Our view of the first site – the Gap of Dunloe – was a lot foggier – but essentially taken from the same general perspective. I was finally landscapey but was much lower and further back.

Library of Congress - Ireland's Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, circa 1890

My Gap of Dunloe - with more clouds - June 2005

One of the spectacular waterfalls in the park – the Torc Cascade – hasn’t changed much in 100 years. Perhaps a little bushier. I think I was standing just below where the original photographer stood. There were some large rocks midstream and it was an ideal place to setup – in any century.

Library of Congress - Ireland's Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park, County Kerry, circa 1890

My Torc Cascade - June 2005

Finally, the famous Lady’s View in Killarney National Park, between Killarney and Kenmare. This seems to be a rather popular location as our two photos are fairly similar. I’m standing somewhere to the original photographer’s right side – and down somewhat – as you can’t see the close lake as well in my image.

Library of Congress - Ireland's Lady's View, Killarney National Park, County Kerry, circa 1890

My Lady's View - June 2005


  1. That is seriously awesome! No matter how accidental that may have been. You’re still jonesing though aren’t you?

  2. Great post. Thanks for the links and images. The wife and I are going to Ireland this summer! These are definitely places I want to see.

  3. Thanks y’all. Yes Stacy – I am still with the jones. Tim – you guys will have a great time; I can’t wait to go back.

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