All of George Brainerd's images were captured between 1872 and 1887. I shot all present day images between August 2013 and April 2014. Many of the images required going back several times to get the best possible results. The following factors played into the difficulty of matching before and after shots:
- Position of the camera
- Height of the camera from the ground
- Aiming of the lens
- Type of lens
- Possibility that Brainerd's image was flipped horizontally during the archiving process
If you're on a desktop computer, move your mouse cursor over and away from the images to see before and after. If you're on a mobile device, touch and let go. If it's not changing back, touch anywhere outside the image. Still having issues? Contact me.
And now, presenting the photographs comparing 140 years of change, and be sure to see the video too.
I found the location of this one by doing a search for "Frank Bollinger's Meat Market" on the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's archive website. Location is 883 Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn.
Behind Borough Hall in Brooklyn.
I was able to identify this location when I saw the Brooklyn Borough Hall windows in the background. Notice Brainerd's shadow being cast on the ground.
George Brainerd was able to watch Brooklyn Bridge's construction from beginning to completion. It opened on May 24, 1883. Notice how there used to be water where Brooklyn Bridge Park is now.
There's a high probability that these two photos show the same location. There aren't many Brooklyn Heights buildings with the doorway on the corner like this, and this one is the best match.
I was able to confirm this location on Canal Street in Manhattan by matching the brick building on the right side. It's still standing even after 140 years. This was one of the only photos I had to capture while standing in the street in heavy traffic, so that was interesting.
Bow Bridge in Central Park. The lake was extended, so part of the old walking path disappeared at some point between then and now. Notice the waterfowl that like to hang around the same spot, no matter the millenium.
The main fountain in Central Park. Perhaps one of the most recognizable locations in Brainerd's collection. Notice how the shadows fall the same direction in both photos, meaning that Brainerd captured his image in the late afternoon.
You can order a collage print of this transformation by visiting the Store page.
A different angle of the same location as the photo above that shows the area around the main fountain in Central Park. Brainerd likely shot this one and the one above on the same day. It's the late afternoon in both photos, as you can see by looking at shadows.
2543 Church Avenue in Brooklyn.
City Hall in New York. Thank you to the security team for letting me step inside the fence and shoot photos.
I considered not including this photo comparison. Brooklyn's Borough Hall is behind the camera and to the left. Things have changed so much around this open area over the years. An elevated train line went up in the late 19th century (pictured here) and was demolished in the 20th century, all happening between the time that these photos were captured.
This is about 50 feet to the left of the previous photo comparison, standing up on the steps in front of Brooklyn's Borough Hall. The fountain was moved at some point in time, in case you are wondering why it appears to be in different positions in this comparison. I noticed that the drawing and image on this page show the fountain in slightly different spots. The comparison here on my website lines up the streets. Today there are two long areas with trees where buildings once stood, both on the right and in the middle.
I found this location after doing a search on the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's archive website for "The Japanese Store" that you can see in the background. I found the address to be at the corner of Fulton and Duffield, which is near other photo locations.
This was the toughest photo to get right. It's just west of the Fulton Street and Flatbush Avenue intersection. A bus or car would come by every 30-45 seconds, so I would have to move my camera and get out of the way every time. Tough shot to capture.
Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. I was able to take this photo from a third floor window of the Brooklyn Public Library. It's important for me to note that it appears the Brainerd photo is actually from the western side of the plaza, as opposed to the eastern side where I took my photograph. It's no longer possible to capture a photo from the western side due to tall buildings, so I captured this other angle anyway too since it seemed like such an important photo to include in the project. Brainerd likely took his photo over the course of several seconds or minutes, as you can see horse carriages on the left side being represented by a blur or two.
Finding this spot inside historic Green-Wood Cemetery was an adventure. It was very rewarding to discover and look out from the same spot where George Brainerd set up his camera 140 years before. I first found the location when the trees were full of leaves. I returned in the winter to be able to see the water in the distance. I probably could have adjusted the camera's height a slight bit to get things more perfect, but I figure I'll never be 100% satisfied. I believe I returned to this spot 1-2 times to get better photos, and you see one of those "return trip photos" above.
This is the concert grove in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. When I say "concert grove", it's not the same place where bands perform today in the park. This is on the east side near Abraham Lincoln's statue and the brand new outdoor skating rink.
The bridge today says "1889" on the side, and Brainerd's photo was captured before his death in 1887. That explains the difference in bridge designs. This photo looks out from the boathouse in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.
This is a small waterfall in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. There are several in the park, including one with a bridge that you can walk across. Near that one is the waterfall you see pictured above. During this past winter, I took a taxi to the park early on a weekday morning before work, walked into the park, hopped over a fence and set up the camera in the snow. I wanted to get this one with snow on the ground to match the conditions Brainerd faced 140 years ago. I hope this shows a small part of my dedication to this project.
This was once known as Public School No. 1 in Brooklyn. Today it has landmark status, though it's crumbling and in very poor condition. Today there are some protective construction materials to protect people on the sidewalk from a potential collapse. The location is 2274 Church Avenue in Brooklyn.
On Old Fulton Street looking toward the water and Manhattan. It's very possible that Brainerd captured his photograph on the day the Brooklyn Bridge opened: May 24, 1883.
Not far from the previous photo is this side angle of the Brooklyn Bridge on Columbia Heights, also known as Everit Street. Today a building blocks the view of the rest of the bridge.
For a while I was unsure if this photo was flipped horizontally, though the buildings in the background of Brainerd's photo confirm that this is the east side of Brooklyn's Borough Hall. I had to hop a fence to get this, and I'm sure that people inside were wondering what I was doing.
This is Flatbush Town Hall at 35 Snyder Avenue. We don't know who the two men are in Brainerd's photo, but it looks like they aren't having too stressful of a day.
And this video above is the behind the scenes film. Personally, it's my favorite part of creating this project.
If you would like to leave a question or comment regarding this project, please do so at the newest blog post.