MANCHESTER — An exhibit opening Monday at the Manchester Community Library looks at the town’s history in a new way, thanks to the efforts of students at Burr and Burton Academy.
The exhibit takes historic photos of Manchester buildings and landscapes from the Manchester Historic Society’s collection and merges them with new digital photos of the same property.
The results are an intriguing study of what has changed since the photos were taken — and, in many cases, what has remained more or less the same.
The exhibit, “Then and Now,” is the work of Alex Vincent’s photography class and combines all disciplines of the art — composing and taking photos and digital darkroom skills — as well as understanding of local history. It opens Monday, Jan. 9 and will be on display through Monday, Feb. 20.
“I thought that if I could pictures I saw on the [MHS] website, I could have the students research them, find those areas or locations as they are today and photograph them as closely to that original as possible,” Vincent said. “I thought it would be good for them to get a handle on how things have changed or how things haven’t changed and explore their neighborhoods at the same time, get an appreciation for where they live — all while learning how to use their cameras.”
Vincent contacted Shawn Harrington at MHS, and he opened up the photo archives to the students.
They donned archivist gloves to handle the original glass plate negatives, scanned them into digital files, and then set out to recreate the photos with their own cameras.
The result is a series of 11 by 14-inch prints in which decades-old black and white images of Manchester-area businesses and scenes blend into the full-color current day.
“He’s opened up the archives to us if we’re interested in doing the project again,” Vincent said.
One student in the project, Angelina Scarlotta of Wells, had a more personal story to tell.
Her photo is from her family collection and features her late great-grandfather, former Manchester police chief Dana L. Thompson, at the Equinox Hotel. Thompson died in 1972.
“It was difficult to find the precise location of the photo on the building,” Scarlotta explained by email. “Today the driveway and the front door are more towards the left side of the hotel, but they used to be in the center.
So, I had to look at the Equinox from many different angles until I found where it matched up with my old photo.”
Composing the image presented challenges, but the end result was worth the effort, Scarlotta said.
“Having my work shown at the Manchester Library is extremely rewarding. I have worked very hard all semester and to know that one of my photographs will be viewed by the public is a very cool feeling,” Scarlotta said. “The library is somewhere that I personally go a lot, and so I am excited to walk in one day and see my work on display.”
Reach Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000 or on Twitter @gsukiennik_mj