Time traveling–The past blends with the present in Dutch historian’s “Ghosts of History”

The UK publication the Daily Mail published a story about a Dutch historian and her photo project this week.  Ghosts of History is a photo essay made by Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse that show pictures of the past combined with pictures of the present.  The story and initial photos in her project have spread around the globe and the project even has its own Facebook page growing in popularity.  Using photos of soldiers in France in World War II, Teeuwisse revisited locations around Cherbourg, France and other locations, found among 300 negatives, that were still standing or recognizable.  Using Photoshop she then assembled the photos to reveal some eerily ghostly images.  The seriousness of war aside, the results are very cool, and may evoke some other ghostly images from sci-fi and fantasy–notably for me the Army of the Dead from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

and the reunion of Elizabeth Dane with the long dead Captain Blake in John Carpenter’s The Fog:

Here is an example the Daily Mail posted showing how Teeuwisse combined her images:

The original 1944 photograph.
The same street corner in 2012.  It is incredible how easy it is to trace the faults in the cracks of brick, unchanged after the better part of a century.
The combined images result in this chilling montage spanning 68 years.

What I hope Teeuwisse tries in future works is mesh modern people with these past images.  More of her work can be found on the Facebook page for the project, linked above.

This isn’t the first time this type of project has been done, of course.  A fun series of books called Then & Now has been around for years, using images from the past combined with similar images over several different points in time, the books use transparencies to allow readers to flip back and forth through time.  These books include Then & Now: The Wonders of the Ancient World Brought to Life in Vivid See-Through Reconstructions, Cities: Then & Now, and Then & Now: As They Were in Their Days of Glory.  One good source of old photographs in wartime that could be used for a similar project is the U.S. Civil War book with stereoscope viewer titled The Civil War in Depth: History in 3-D.

I have always been a fan of ghosts in genre works, and Teeuwisse’s historical-meets-creativity project could be done in all kinds of contexts.  And who doesn’t have a box of old photos lying around to try this with?  Hopefully this story and project will spur others to create similar cool images.

C.J. Bunce

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