I recently wrote a guest post for the blog Cyborgology about technology, memory, and place. It uses a series of images, in which photographs from World War II have been superimposed onto modern-day photographs of the same location, as a jumping-off point to explore the ways in which digital technology can potentially manipulate our sense of place:
A week or two ago, Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse’s ‘Ghosts of History’ project made the rounds online. Using Photoshop, Teeuwisse has blended photographs from World War II with modern day photographs taken of the same location. The images have been reproduced at the Atlantic, the Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, and The Sun, to name a few, and similar projects have been popping at regular intervals for awhile now – here are some different examples – so there’s evidently something compelling about this kind of series.
In an email interview, Teeuwisse tells the Atlantic’s Rebecca J. Rosen that she hopes her particular project will encourage people to “stop and think about history, about the hidden and sometimes forgotten stories of where they live.” About one image (in which World War II soldiers dash across the modern-day Avenue de Paris in Cherbourg; one of the soldiers hangs back, semi-transparent, and he appears to be fading, like a shadow growing dull as clouds pass across the sun, or a mirage) she says: “it to me sort of suggests the idea of someone being left behind, history hanging around and staying.”
The reason these kinds of images are compelling is because they present us with an opportunity to see what’s always there but has been made – by time, by forgetfulness – invisible. Here are (some of) the layers of history made visible again; here’s a kind of manifestation of place-memory; a new way of bridging whatever gap exists between then and now.