NYC Grid is a photo blog dedicated to exploring New York block-by-block and corner-by-corner. Each post covers a new street or feature with a focus on the mundane and ephemeral.

  

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Friday
Apr172009

New York City : 1961 vs. 2009

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after

 

Update, October 2012: I've upgraded all the photos with a "before/after" slider, so you can better see the changes. Just drag the yellow bar in the center to see more or less of each image. You can also click on the year labels below each set of images to reveal the full photo instantly. The full gallery of individual images is also still available.

I'll admit, I have a slight obsession with the past – how time changes or preserves select things fascinates me. So, when we recently came across a handful of slides that my grandfather took while in New York City in 1961, I was more than just a little excited. For the past month or so, I've been looking at his photos with great interest – mainly just trying to re-construct the locations and route he walked through midtown as he took these images. I realized the best way to experience this would be to re-visit the spots myself. So, with camera in-hand I went out over the past week and did my best to photograph, in the same manner, all the locations in his original photos. Some were easier than others, and a few were down-right impossible.  But it was quite amazing to stand in, what I could only assume was, the exact same location my grandfather stood almost 50 years ago.

So, it's with a lot of excitement that I offer up the results of my trek, side-by-side with the originals.

I'd by lying if I said this was an original idea.  One of my hands-down favorite books is New York Changing. In this nearly 200-page masterpiece, Douglas Levere revisits many of the locations photographed by the legendary Berenice Abbott for her Changing New York collection. He, of course, being a professional photographer is able to get much more impressive results – especially considering he used the identical equipment that Abbott used 60 years earlier in her work. In my case, I was shooting with a DSLR verses my grandfather's film camera of unknown make and model shooting slide film. I'm not sure you could get much more different than that. Maybe I could have used my iPhone's camera. So, if you happen to find the images I've posted of any interest, I'd highly recommend New York Changing.

 

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Reader Comments (20)

Thanks for sharing these! Very cool -- I love how you duplicated each shot so precisely. The coolest thing I have seen in a while.

April 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKris

Amazing! Thanks for posting these.

April 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Well done. Took a few minutes to look over your other posts, that's cool too. keep it up.

April 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick

You did a wonderful job. What a treat to check these out. Thank you.

April 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReid

Bravo. Always a treat to see the results of hard work like this. The passage of time is an interesting subject to chronicle. Thanks for this.

April 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCali_York

Hi! I really like these photos, but the full-sized version opens in a new window that doesn't scroll (so I can only see the top part of the full-size image). Using Firefox 3. Keep up the great work!

April 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCourtenay

That's amazing! And it's interesting to see the things that have changed and the things that have not.

April 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiego

Great project.

Any 1961 vs 2009 shots of the Village?

April 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFarid Mashhadi

Beautiful site. Thanks for sharing it.
I've only seen NYC in images or films and your work give me a different angle.
Best

April 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermoonport

This is some great work here Paul, really interesting comparisons. I almost prefer all the before images, things seemed to have deeper character. And the book NY Changing is an excellent book, it definitely inspired me to do a lot of work as well.

Awesome blog, adding you to my list!

April 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErik

Hi, GREAT JOB, really! like your photos .... siegfried ...... germany

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSiegfried

I was in New York City in August, 1961. I arrived by train at Grand Central Station after a fantastic trip down the Hudson. I could not believe how many tall buildings there were! Blocks and blocks of them! Miles and miles of them! Even though I came from a fairly big city (Toronto), the sight of NYC has remained with me for all time. One of the places my hosts took me was to see The Automat!!!! It was a big deal back then. I often wish I had been in the audience on opening night for West Side Story! Thanks for bringing back some special memories by posting these!

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAvril Fernley

brilliant comparitions, I made something similar with my town (Lodz, Poland): http://refotografie.blogspot.com - just roll over your mouse over old pictures to see ones from 2009

January 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstefbra

Congratulations Paul for this great work! Your site deserves to be included in the "cities before and after" of my blog!

Eric from "Photimages ... yesterday and today"

I'll take 1961 and give back cell phones and the internet, besides there will be more bookstores and newsstands.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLori Rogers

I loved your attention to detail. You even managed to get the "Don't Walk" sign to show in both. :)

August 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Found out about this from the show RTM. Love the site! Thanks for this.

August 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanie

Thank you so much for doing this amazing presentation. The Before and After is so thought provoking. Oh, and it pretty much confirms that America has turned into a nation of slobs...Even since the 1960s!

Mike

August 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

These pictures are exciting. I visited NY in 2009 and since then I love it. You did a great job
Greetings from Germany
Eva

August 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEva Weber

absolutely stunning

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkathleen kufner

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