New York Then and Now: Photographer Recreates Oldest Images of NYC

Curators’ Corner

New York Then and Now: Photographer Recreates Oldest Images of NYC

New York is a city in constant flux; change is a big part of what makes the Big Apple so special.

Photographer Jordan Liles is turning the clock way back to the 1870s, recreating some of the oldest surviving images of NYC. Liles’ current project, New York Then and Now is a viral-worthy tribute to 19th century photographer George Bradford Brainerd.

Brainerd is by no means a household name in the history of photography; in fact, he was somewhat of an amateur. However, the lifelong Brooklynite’s 2,500+ snapshots of New York’s urban landscape secure his legacy as one of the earliest NYC photographers. More than 1,900 of his glass plate negatives are preserved in the Brooklyn Museum.

Liles shines light on Brainerd’s historic work by visiting the approximate locations of his shots and replicating them through a present-day lens. Over the past two years, he has re-shot 28 of Brainerd’s images originally composed between 1872 and his early death at age 42 in 1887.

The goal of the project, Liles told PetaPixel, is to raise awareness of Brainerd’s “mostly forgotten accomplishments.” According to his website, he always wanted to give back to the city as he moves away.

Browse a few splits from New York Then and Now below, including an awesome shot of a half-constructed Brooklyn Bridge. The best part is that while many of the images show a stark contrast, some don’t look all that different.