Archives » April 12th, 2005

April 12, 2005

Then And Now

I’ve been searching the web for examples of “Then and Now” sites. You know, where you find an old photograph, and then go back to the exact same spot and take a picture of what it looks like today. Much like my own Virginia City Then and Now pages. I’m planning to one day expand that section to include the whole area, like Carson City, Reno, Minden, Lake Tahoe, and maybe even parts of Northern California. There’s a lot of history here, stretching back to the Gold Rush, and a lot of the old buildings are still around. So I went looking around to see how other people have done it, hoping to get some inspiration.

To start, there are the books. Thunder Bay Press seems to have made a whole series of these books, and I have two of them, the ones for Las Vegas and San Francisco. They’re pretty well done, with full-size photos—the historic photo on the left page, and present day on the right. If I ever get a book deal out of my project, I’ll have to use the same format. Maybe the flying pigs can help me.

Turning to the web, it’s hard to find anything quite that in-depth (each book has about 70 pairs of photos). One of the best is New York Changing, which I’ve pointed to before. That one is a book too, but most of the photos are available for viewing on the website. And today I found a couple of other cool ones. The first one looks at San Francisco, through the lens of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The webmaster took stills from the 1958 film, and photographed the same scenes 45 years later. The second site is a look at Disneyland, Tomorrowland to be precise. It’s a Save Disney photo essay on how much worse off Tomrrowland is today than it was in the 60s, 70s and 80s, before budget slashing began and rides started being removed with no replacement. This one, unlike the others, doesn’t have the before and after shots on the same page. Instead you use Next and Previous buttons to flip through the pictures. The advantage to this method is that by flipping back and forth you can really see what’s changed and what hasn’t, especially on the shots where they were able to line everything up just right. In some of the shots you can even see individual trees growing!

I’m sure there are many many more sites like these out there, and I’m hoping to fold together all the best ideas into my site. The next thing I have to do is go down to the State Museum and get my hands on their photo collections. The local paper has been running some of their historic photos, and there are some excellent ones in there I could really use. And then it’ll be time to get snapping!

So until then, check out my Virginia City Then and Now if you haven’t seen it yet.

Jason Benson

I got the word today that my cousin died over the weekend. He had been battling cancer for the last couple of years, and it looked like they had beaten it and he would be all right. But then it came back, and they went after it stronger than ever. He had just gotten home from the hospital and a particularly rough round of chemotherapy when he collapsed on the floor. It was an aneurysm, and he was gone before the paramedics arrived.

He was 23.

I could never really say I was close to my cousins. We played together a lot when we were kids, but my family moved away when I was 8, and they were both younger. After that we’d only see them twice a year when we went down to Orange County to visit family, then once a year, and then we stopped getting together. Our parents kept in touch, but we never did, and when I saw them four years ago at my grandfather’s funeral, it was like we were strangers. And now Jason, the youngest out of all four of us cousins, is gone. And now we do’t even have a chance of one day reconnecting.

It seems wrong for someone so young to be taken by cancer. It seemed wrong when I first heard he had it, and it seemed wrong that he would have to go through all the chemotherapy and everything at his age. And it seems extra wrong now, that his body just turned on him like that and devoured him from inside. Cancer isn’t supposed to be a young person’s disease. But it is. It doesn’t care who it strikes, or when. My wife had a distant cousin, a few times removed, by marriage, who was living the American Dream up in Puget Sound. He had a multi-million dollar business, a loving family, lots of friends, and a full rich life. But the cancer didn’t care about any of that. One day he was diagnosed, and within a month he was dead. You never know when it’s going to strike.

So rest in peace, Jason Benson. You were one of the unlucky ones, but at least now, as my aunt said, you’re “not being poked with needles anymore.” And for the rest of us, it’s just another reminder to enjoy every day that we have here.