When the affluent French Banker Albert Kahn initiated the project called Archives of the Planet, a century ago, little did he know that his photographs would inspire a project of uncommon creativity. Kahn sent photographers around the globe to document the cultures and settlements of peoples from six continents, using an early color photography process, autochrome. So off went the commissioned photographers, not knowing that their work, a century later, would form half of the equation for an amazing amalgamation of images, depicting then and now.
The Kahn commissioned photographs, are the backdrop to which present day lens man Audrey Cerdan and writer Pascal Riche, map out a century-long time capsule ,using merely two images. Both men are from the French news website Rue89. The objective is to show Paris age through a century. Recreating precise angles and positions they found on the original autochrome images, the two men came up with photos, replicating the perspective of the hundred-year-old counterpart. Framed exactly the same, the old and the new images were positioned for perfect alignment.
Using a digital slider to control which image occupies the frame, one is given the control of seeing how roughly ten decades can transform, or in some cases, not transform a place. One is drawn into the photo series, which encourages an investigative eye to look for both change and constancy. These will be mainly evident in the structures that survive a century that is one of the most tumultuous in history. Some structure survive in part, others quite entirely, while just as many disappear, giving way to new infrastructure.
Surprisingly, the photographs taken recently show more foliage and trees lining the streets, evident in a few images. One would expect the opposite. There is also evidence of some commercial areas becoming residential, and vice versa, while others remain the same. The old and new seamlessly blend together, and only the juxtaposed photographs can reveal the extent or absence of change. One walks away from the experience of viewing these side by side comparisons that Paris is indeed an enduring city.