Monday, October 28, 2019

Rephotographic project reimagined.

I’ve been invited to participate in an exhibit at the Oshkosh Public Museum. (Full disclosure: I volunteer at the museum.) The theme is a twist on the common Rephotographic Project, where scenes from images in the museum archive are reproduced as exactly as possible in the present day. They’ve already done that. In the lecture room are some lenticular images with very recognizable Oshkosh scenes taken in the late nineteenth and in the early 21st century that fade from one to the other when you walk by.

This project has a slightly different take. To quote curator Deb Daubert’s invitation: “We are seeking photographers who would use historical photographs from the Museum’s collection and recreate or reimagine them to fit today’s perception.” That sounds just like the kind of photography I’ve been doing for the last few years.

We were provided with a selection of images and their catalog descriptions but I was told I could search the archive of 70,000 pictures to find things to fit into my contemporary perception.

I wrote out a list of addresses from the descriptions and headed out with the Variable Cuboid.

The corner of High Street and Main. That’s always struck me as a funny address. Isn’t the high street suppose to be the main street of the town?

125 and 127 Main were one store, but now the entire block is occupied by US Bank.

It also occupies the block of 59 Pearl Street.

The two story part of The Electric Lounge is in one of the historical images.

One of the descriptions specified the northeast corner of Washington and Jefferson. That’s the Oshkosh Public Library now. Funny they didn’t mention that. I chose to concentrate on the corner but might go back when there’s more directional light.

What that description should have said is the northwest corner of Washington and Jefferson. The three-story-and-a-bell-tower, neo-romanesque Post Office was on this corner until 1939. The site was a parking lot until 1951 when the one-story Oshkosh Savings and Loan was built around it’s drive-through. I was so excited to get the First National Bank building behind it lit up by the sun against the dark clouds. Neither building is a bank anymore.

By the way, all the streets downtown have one name on the east side of Main, and another on the west. Here is the view east down Waugoo from Main toward the former Oshkosh Northwestern. I wonder where their photo archive is?

Across from Menomonie Park was Lakeside Sanitarium which became Mercy Hospital and now is Bella Vista retirement complex. They do have nice views over the park and Lake Winnebago. Andy recovered from his tonsilectomy in one of those rooms but I don’t think I looked out the window.

This place, at the corner of High and Wisconsin, started out as a minor lumber baron’s mansion and went through numerous lives as the Ladies Benevolent Home and the Twentieth Century Association. Now it's an apartment building full of students who attend the University. Notice how the left side is lit by the reflection off the windows of the ten story Scott Hall across the street. The exterior is remarkably unchanged except for the addition of the fire escapes and the ugly sign identifying the rental agency.

Just behind it on Algoma is this plain Queen Anne, now a frat house, that replaced an earlier Greek Revival from 1868. It looks like the arbor vitae is trying to hide the big Greek letters.

As you might guess, when riding around to get these pictures, I just ran across other scenes to photograph. If I could search the archives, odds are an image would match them.

The Oshkosh Public Museum, the former Sawyer Mansion, is itself the subject of many images in the archive.

What was I thinking when composing this picture? If Justin Quinnel is reading this, I know he’s thinking that if I had just put the camera on the ground, the composition would have been better. The invitation did talk about today’s reinterpretation so this asymmetric treatment of the arches might work.

I was going to the Public Museum because the mid-autumn, early morning sun was shining directly down Algoma Boulevard, dramatically illuminating the buildings along it. I had just done the Pearl Street view of the US Bank and was really happy that the 35mm front was still on the camera when I passed these sunbeams streaking across this neoclassical portico. This was the First Church of Christ Scientist until recently but now it’s the non-affiliated Water City Church. Three young staff members went up the steps during this exposure. No one said anything more than hello.

I went down Church Street going back downtown and passed similarly raking light on the underground parking garages of the Public Safety Building (i.e. the police) with this black Dodge Challenger parked in front of them.  While I was packing up, a man in a leather jacket with grey hair done in a Brill Cream style came out of the building, lit a cigarette and got in the car.

I’ve always liked this composition of the Wagner Opera House and the Raulf Hotel but was always disappointed with a closer view with a wide angle camera. The 200mm front allowed me to get the composition I was seeing.

The parking structure of the Waterfront Hotel along the River Walk featuring one of the distinctive street lights.

This was once a narrow street between the Mercury Marine Engineering Lab and Radford Company, a builder of wood products like cabinets and doors that drove the nineteenth century economy of Oshkosh. It’s now the parking lot of a restaurant. Rather than move the pre-existing utilities, they just wove the sidewalk around them.

In order to see what ends up in the exhibit, the archive images they’re matched with and what the others come up with, you’ll have to come to Oshkosh next spring.

I used all the fronts for the Variable Cuboid except the 20mm.
Two rolls of T-Max 100 stand developed in Rodinal 1:100.
Three bike rides.

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