Mark Klett provides a useful definition of this week’s focus:
“A repeat photograph, or ‘rephotograph’ is a photograph specifically made to duplicate selected aspects of another, pre-existing photograph. The new image typically repeats the spatial location of the original, showing the viewer the same scene once again and inviting comparison.”
His project The Third View Project (1997) undertook a rephotography exercise seeking to precisely repeat the work of photographers such as Timothy O’Sullivan and Willian Henry Jackson who had taken images of the American West in the 1860s and 1870s. His description of the projects is as follows:
“Third View revisits the sites of historic western American landscape photographs. The project makes new photographs, keeps a field diary of its travel, and collects materials useful in interpreting the scenes, change and the passage to time.”
Klett describes two approaches that can be taken in Repeat Photography. The first involves finding the exact location where the original image was made and attempting to “reoccupy the position and framing” of the original photograph. This type of approach is clearly important where quantitative measurements and scientific analysis is involved. However, for those interested in the social sciences or the arts they might use a second approach where it is also important to find the original location where the photograph was taken but thereafter is more interested in context and stories behind the images. Below are some of Klett’s rephotographs:
There are many applications for repeat photography – Michael Marten’s project “Sea Change” displays a pair of images – one with the tide in and one with it out.
Mark Klett also uses his repeat photography techniques closer to home. He and his daughter share the same birthday and every year a photograph was taken to chart their ageing and relationship over time.
Gustavo Germano in his series of photographs “Ausencias” also tracks and records family history but in his work he always leaves an empty space to record the absence of a family member. Toshiya Watanabe’s images on the other hand show the passing of time following the tsunami in 2011 at Fukushima.
I also viewed the James Balog TED talk on the Extreme Ice Survey. This type of project where cameras are set up in various locations to take photographs over time to inform scientific research is now commonplace but very interesting.
I am fascinated with the area of repeat photography. I find it interesting to understand, see and record how places, people or other things have changed with the passing of time. I can see a number of potential applications for my research project although I need to ensure this element of my work does not detract from my research aims. I am already taking and collecting images from my favourite viewing points on The Road to Elgol at different times of year and in different weather. I enjoy capturing the change in mood and feeling of the landscape through the seasons and how it impacts on my experience of the road. There are also potential applications in seeing the human impact on certain locations that form part of my project, particularly the tiny fishing port of Elgol that is overrun with tourists in the summer months, whilst in the winter only the brave face its isolated and forbidding weather.
As a social historian, I am also interested in pursuing a project locally in the town of Tetbury. We have an active historical society that has a huge archive of local images and stories charting the history of the wool town. I would be really interested in creating a new archive of images for the society to contribute to future archival material. I intend to pursue this over the period of the course.
Update: This project has now been progressed and I am working on a small set of images to rephotograph with a view to discussing my approach and photographs with members of the Historical Society.
Klett, M (2011), Repeat Photography in Landscape Research, in the Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods
Miles, M (2016), Rephotography and the Era of Witness, Photographies, 9:1, 51-69