5+ Questions with Jason E. Powell, Camerist

It’s one thing to look at a book of old photos. Jason E. Powell decided to take it to the next step with a website of now/then photos blending them perfectly into imaginative scenes.

The Washington’s website is a pure joy of remembering Washington history while seeing how it interacts with the present. Monumental Thoughts asked how he did it.

Q – Jason, I’m fascinated by your website JasonEPowell.com Where did you come up with the idea for showing old photos in their modern setting?

A: Thanks! I got the idea for Looking Into the Past when I was trying to create some images on the theme “Modern Day Equivalent.”  I thought I would try doing a then/now diptych or something like that.  So I found some images of my hometown on the Library of Congress, printed them out, and headed out to the modern locations.  When I got on the site, I flashed on the idea of holding the images up in place, sort of as an homage to Michael Hughes’ Souvenirs series, and when I saw the results, I fell in love.

Q – You have a simple style of literally holding the old photo where the modern setting is. Why did you decide to do it that way?

A:  I think it works the best.  Using Photoshop to blend images is perhaps more accurate and can be interesting, but I think the analog way is more visceral – I feel more of a connection with the past when shooting them.  Remember, when I look through the viewfinder of my camera and line the original photo up properly, I am literally looking into the past.  I’d hate to lose that sense of time travel, it’s my favorite part of the project.

Q – How many photos do you have on the site and where did you get the old ones?

A:  I’ve uploaded about 45 or so.  I’ve shot many more, but some weren’t compelling enough to show, and others were just impossible to line up properly.

Q – Do you have a favorite now-then photo?

A:  My favorite is this one from Thomas Circle. It’s just an amazing original photo, of something that you’ll never see again.

Q – You also have events like the 1969 March on Washington and a 1924 Easter egg roll. Do you connect with people in the photos?

A:  Absolutely. Stepping back in time via my camera’s viewfinder gives me some sense of what life was like back then, if only for a day. I remember getting goose bumps shooting the March on Washington photo, given what a momentous day that was.

Q – What old photos are you still searching for?

A:  The Library of Congress, which is where I’ve gotten the majority of my images, has a definite lack of basic street photography.  There’s a ton of monument and other major building photos, but not a whole lot of everyday life. And unfortunately, a lot of the street photography they do have was taken in areas that just don’t exist anymore.

Q – In 100 years, what current buildings do you think your future great grandchild might post as updates to your site?

A:  This is a great question. Obviously, they’d be posting images that pointed out the difference in clothing and technology (what with the flying cars and all that) so any street photos would do. I’d hope that some of my favorite D.C. buildings are still around – the Waffle Shop storefront near Ford’s Theatre, the DAR and OAS buildings, Ben’s Chili Bowl and obviously, the D.C. monuments.

About Rick

Rick Snider is a native Washingtonian, long-time journalist and licensed tour guide since 2010.
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2 Responses to 5+ Questions with Jason E. Powell, Camerist

  1. Meg says:

    So cool! What a creative and cool idea, and I can definitely see how it feels like “time travel.”

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention 5+ Questions with Jason E. Powell, Camerist | Monumental Thoughts -- Topsy.com

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