What if the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck today Digital trickery blends pictures taken at the time with city”s streets todayPhotographer Shawn Clover finds the exact spot each photo was taken and waits for the right light conditions
He studied archives of old photos taken at the time of the disasterAround 25,000 buildings were destroyed by fire that raged for four days after the quake
These dramatic photographs show the streets of modern-day San Francisco torn apart by the after-effects of a violent earthquake.
Buildings are reduced to rubble, huge craters have opened in the debris-strewn roads and uncontrollable fires have ripped through homes.
Fortunately, these pictures are a clever amalgamation of images of the city today and after the devastating quake of 1906.
Trip back in time: A women opens the door to her Mercedes on Sacramento Street while horses killed by falling rubble lie in the street
Wonders of the modern world: A crowd from 1906 stare out over the burning city – and a 21st century bus
Foundations: Shoppers blithely cross the street while workers begin the monumental task of rebuilding a destroyed San Francisco
Breathtaking: Mr Clover returned almost 20 times to get the exact position and light right for this picture of the fallen Valencia St. Hotel
They were created by photographer Shawn Clover, a San Francisco resident who wanted to reimagine the traditional “then-and-now” concept.
Mr Clover first selects a catalogue of historical photos and then takes new ones from the same spot, which he softly blends with the old.
Once he has usable images, he has to recreate the exact conditions in which the original was taken – from where the photographer was positioned to where the sun is in the sky.
I found that many of the original photos I planned to use were in fact unusable because the photographer was situated in a place where a building stands today,” he writes on his blog. “Others now have trees blocking the view.
“My goal is to stand in the exact spot where the original photographer stood,” he adds. “Doing this needs to take into account equivalent focal length, how the lens was shifted, light conditions, etc.
Ghostly echoes: Mechanics Monument at Bush Street and Battery Street is surrounded by the shells of wrecked buildings from the past
Trash to tourism: Passing cable cars offer a view of the destruction of California Street. Cable cars at the time were crushed by rubble
Evocative: Fire fills the streets around Alamo Square – but does not quite reach the sunlit future – in one of Shawn Clover”s mesmerising pictures
Broken windows: Cars park in front of the brand new US Courthouse, which survived the quake almost intact
“I take plenty of shots, each nudged around a bit at each location. Just moving one foot to the left changes everything.
He added: “I kept running into delays. In the case of the Valencia St. Hotel, I had to return to the scene on Valencia between 18th and 19th four times before I managed to get it right. There’s quite a bit of conflicting information of exactly where this building once stood.
“And just when I was about to wrap things up, my dad announced that he had unearthed a local magazine published in late 1906 loaded with earthquake-aftermath photos that I had never seen in any library or online collection.”
Photography was a common hobby by 1906 and thousands of photos have survived to this day. One photographer even flew his 46 camera on a kite to get aerial shots of the aftermath. Some colour photographs have even been found.
Strange visions: Modern day business people and a child from 1906 face the camera while fire consumes a building on the corner of Franklin St and Hayes St
Fade out: Cheerful tourists pass by the Fairmont Hotel, which still stands, but is destroyed inside from the fires
Always prepared: Men pose in a tent city to house displaced residents while an armoured car turns left a corner
In ruins: Buildings fell, sinkholes in the streets opened up, railroad tracks bent, and collapsing bricks crushed cable cars during the disaster
The 42 seconds of intense shaking made building collapse, sinkholes in the streets open up, railroad tracks bend, and collapsing bricks crush cable cars.
Four-day-long fires were responsible for 90 per cent of the destruction, with more than 30, caused by ruptured gas mains, destroying around 25,000 buildings on 490 city blocks.
Many were started when firefighters untrained in the use of dynamite attempted to demolish buildings to create firebreaks, and the dynamited buildings themselves caught fire.
Mayor Eugene Schmitz put out an authorization for the federal troops and police to shoot and kill looters. Thousands of tents and temporary relief houses went up to house 20,000 displaced people.
Mr Clover has spent more than two years recreating the chaos in 1906 + 2010: The Earthquake Blend.
Ode to San Fran: A tourist takes a photo of a cable car heading towards the California St incline – if only he could see the aimless people of the past
Masterpiece: Two girls stand before the partially destroyed Sharon Building in Golden Gate Park while students work on their art projects inside
Underground artwork: A woman walks dangerously close to a pit of rubble on 5th St by the US Mint
Standing tall: Pedestrians cross Jones St towards a pile of rubble on Market Street and the gutted Hibernia Bank