Milk wagon careens into Huntington Avenue pharmacy

Milk truck in the window of a Huntington Avenue drug store

Last fall, Marc Hermann juxtaposed old crime and accident photos from the archives of the New York Daily News with photos of the scenes in modern times. The results are wicked cool.

I started thinking Boston would also lend itself to this sort of treatment. In recent days, I've been taking photos of the current scenes where news photographer Leslie Jones and the (generally) anonymous photographers enshrined in the Boston City Archives captured life in Boston back in the day.

Above is the first smushed photo, showing the scene in 1937 when a milk wagon somehow rammed into the Gainsboro Pharmacy, which was located on Huntington Avenue at Gainsborough Street, in a building that now houses the Symphony Market.

As time permits, I'll post more of these in coming days. One thing I've discovered is it's wicked hard to take photos that capture the exact perspective of the original photographer, which makes it hard to combine photos, because not everything will fit just right in the smushing process.

For example, in the photo above, the "Drugs Chemicals" sign fits perfectly. But the perspective is skewed, so that the bottom of the image is larger than it should be (while it's possible the sidewalk was wider back then, I doubt it was that wide!). Any suggestions gratefully accepted!

Photo from the BPL's Leslie Jones collection used under this Creative Commons license.



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Fun idea

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Photoshop's Filter->Distort->Lens Correction works in theory but it takes a lot of skill.

Thanks for the hint

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I use GIMP, which, on a bit of investigating, has something called a Perspective filter, which looks to be just what I need. And yeah, also looks like it will take a lot of fiddling :-).

Wicked awesome!

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I'm going to enjoy this project of yours. I don't have any brilliant suggestions about the photography, but I'm going to guess it has something to do with the lens used in the original photograph. Also, was it possible the photographer was standing on something when he took the original?

Different cameras & lenses

Jones was a press guy, so he was shooting wide lenses on large "sensors" (4x5 and 5x7 film). You'd need something similar. I probably have something similar if you want me to try to duplicate the original so you can compare and contrast.

FWIW, despite the width of the sidewalk, the rest of the old photo looks relatively undistorted to me.

ETA: I see the original from the BPL collection is 3 1/8 x4 1/4. I have a couple of those, too, for comparison purposes.

Technically, nothing did.

This is a bit like how "35mm" isn't actually 35mm in any dimension.

But anyway, there were a couple of cameras in the Burke & James, Kodak and Graflex arsenals that wasted the edges of 3¼x4¼ film. Anything Kodak designated "3A" would shoot type 118 roll film, and generally produce a printable negative of 3⅛x4¼. Basically, the spools were the nominal width, so the film couldn't be to fit inside the flanges.

At the same time, I've seen old quarter-plate holders that have been adapted to hold sheet film, which yield a useable negative of 3⅛x4⅛. I could totally see someone at BPL growing or shrinking an odd-ball format by an eighth of an inch.

NB: I know of no less than four sizes called "quarter plate," of which 3⅛x4⅛ and 3¼x4¼ are but two. Standards are wonderful things.

My assumption, should I try to reproduce this exactly, would be that the small Speed Graphic pre-Anniversary is the way to go, using the crappiest wooden back I have in a box somewhere, shooting paper negatives, because nobody makes film this size anymore.

Wonderful Fun!

And Adam, save the now photos and consider sending a full size digital copy to the BPL. In another 50 years some researcher will want to know how that scene evolved between the two moments. I use the BPL collection, a private collection and the original photos Bainbridge Bunting shot for his book for research on Back Bay buildings.

I like it!

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Love "then and now" comparisons, whether in photos or words.

I think the distortion is due to lenses like other people mentioned, but I wouldn't worry about it too much.

We get the gist of it!


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Great idea, Adam. I look forward to more.

Apparently, a horse-drawn wagon. I guess the oatburner just reared up and decided to make a charge through the plate glass? Wow.