One of the most important uses of photography is to record events of historical significance. We can look at an image and remember not just what happened, but what led to the event and what happened after. One of the most important uses of today's latest photographic technology is allowing us to look back on historical photos in a new way, to offer new meaning. Thanks to these processes and computer software, we can combine images and create an impression on viewers greater than the either image could alone.

Photographer Seth Taras created the Know Where You Stand campaign for the History Channel with that in mind. Taking old photographs of events everyone can recognize, and superimposing current photographs he took of the exact location and point of view, Taras gives us a whole new way of looking at the past and present, and understanding the importance of knowing what has passed in the locations right under our feet.


Lakehurst, N.J., 1937/2004 (Photo: Seth Taras)

Taras told me in an email, "Each of the images for the Today part were photographed in precisely the same location as the original events. I used equipment and film I thought most accurately emulated how the original images were captured."

The images have an eeriness to them, especially when we consider the upheaval some places have experienced and the current calm they enjoy.

Eiffel Tower in 1940 and 2004

The terrace of the Palais de Chaillot, Paris 1940/2004

Taras says, "Hopefully viewers take away the essence of the campaign's tag line ...  Know Where You Stand ... Understanding that almost everywhere you've ever been, someone's been there before you and something has happened on that very spot ... maybe even something wondrous ... or disastrous …"

The power behind the photographs is apparent when considering the past and present, but they also address the future. While we can see the past and present in them, and learn from both, there is still the mystery of what the future may hold for these places.

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

See history in a new light
Photographer Seth Taras marries past and present with a series of superimposed images created for the History Channel.