Historical Photo Mash Up: Shawn Clover and the 1906 SF Earthquake

Anytime I come across an old photograph of a familiar place, I get excited. I immediately begin ticking off the differences between the photo and the place now- just like a game of “Spot the Difference” from the kid’s magazine Highlights.  (You know you know what I’m talking about)!

Weirdly, even though I know the photograph depicts the same place I know in real life, and I use photos as evidence in my research, it just doesn’t seem fully real to me.  There is something about historical photos that almost feels imaginary – especially if the photo is drastically different or depicts a disaster. (I blame Hollywood and CGI).

That is why I love Bay Area photographer Shawn Clover‘s 1906 San Francisco Earthquake series.  Clover’s images cleverly blend photos taken in the aftermath of the devastating quake with photos taken from the same vantage point in modern day San Fransisco.    In these mash ups, history and reality collide in an explosive and mind-bending way – the history feels more real, more tangible, less imaginary.

I know the photo below is a little on the macabre side, but it’s my favorite from the two part series.  It dramatically shows how oblivious we usually are to history in our day to day lives.  I’m sure the woman getting into her car is completely unaware that a team of horses died where she is standing in 1906.

History and its relationship to place is really kind of crazy when you start to think about it, and I love that.

“A women opens the door to her Mercedes on Sacramento Street while horses killed by falling rubble lie in the street.”

Be sure to check out Clover’s website to see all of the stunning images he created for this series, as well as his other work. His galleries include beautiful architectural photographs, travel photos, and a series of graffiti meets ruin porn photographs taken inside the Old Fleishhaker Pool House.


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