Historical Photographs Superimposed Over Original Locations
Superimposition is described as the placement of an image on top of an already-existing image. This has become popular online, especially in regard to old photographs over present day locations that show the passage of time. One man, a student from Boston, Massachusetts, has been instrumental in this viral trend. Peter Perry uses his Instagram account to share dozens of superimposed images from all over the world, and he’s not the only one. Stick around to the end of the article to see all of Peter’s pics, as well as other people’s versions of this awesome idea…
Acorn Street in Boston is widely considered the most photographed street in the United States. It’s located in the neighborhood of Beacon Hill, which allows visitors to go back in time due to fact that it hasn’t changed much over the years. The area still has real cobblestone roads, which are incredibly rare nowadays. The image above is Peter’s most recent post, and the caption reads, “One of the earliest known images of Acorn Street, taken in 1890.” Sometimes he only includes some basic details, but other pictures come with an entire history lesson, like this next image…
Ponzi Scheme, 1934
This picture was taken at the Massachusetts State House where, all the way back in 1934, Charles Ponzi and his wife Rose had just left following his appeal to remain in the US. It was denied. In 1903, he came to Boston from Italy with only $2.50 in his pocket. Over the next decade and a half, Ponzi worked random jobs and even spent some time in prison for smuggling and forgery, but eventually set up an investment company. Starting in 1919 he began buying and reselling international postage coupons for profit.
In the wake of WWII, Europe saw inflation rates that Ponzi took advantage of. He guaranteed investors that they would get a 50% return within 45 days or 100% within 90 days. There was nothing illegal about this alone, but Ponzi instead used their money to pay back previous investors instead of purchasing the coupons. He was making a fortune until the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Boston Post led to guilty pleas on 86 counts of mail fraud. He spent 10 years in prison, both state and federal, until being deported back to Italy. The term “Ponzi scheme” is still used to this day.
Peter’s First Superimposition
In an interview with Chicago’s WGN9 Peter told the story of how his very first superimposition came to be. Back in the summer of 2016, Peter was in Germany visiting his father, who was working there on a military base. At the time, Germany was decorated with rainbow flags and banners in celebration of pride, and Peter recognized the balcony in front of city hall from a famous picture of history’s most infamous dictator giving a speech. As he was standing on the street thinking about this historical event, he had an idea.
Peter looked up the original image, noticed the stark contrast between the past and present, and then went to print the photograph. He did this because he couldn’t use his phone to do two different things at once, but it certainly adds aesthetic value to the images. He returned to the balcony and took a few pictures, then realized he could use the technique for a class he was preparing to take at school in the fall. So he snapped a few more and started uploading them online. They blew up on Reddit and the rest is history.
Private Elvis Presley, 1959
This is a picture of Private Elvis Presley when he was stationed at Bad Nauheim, a town in the Wetteraukreis district of Hesse state of Germany. He’s seen here in front of the Dankeskirche church with some horses. Apparently the series that the original picture is a part of was used by RCA and Elvis’ management for various official releases/occasions. And this isn’t the only shot Peter’s taken featuring The King, stick around to see more…
Prague Spring, 1968
While visiting Prague, Czech Republic, Peter located the original location of this historical photograph of protests during the Soviet invasion in 1968. The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after WWII. In the image’s caption, Peter said that hockey player Jaromír Jágr “wears the number 68 in honor of his grandfather who died during the movement.”
Oskar Schindler, 1944
This powerful image was taken at Kraków, Poland in 1944. It shows Oskar Schindler, a Sudeten German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories, one of which is seen above. His story was told in the cinematic classic Schindler’s List, a 1993 American historical period drama film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg. It won seven Academy Awards.
Park Street, 1920s
Back in Boston, Massachusetts, Peter visited Park Street where, back in the ‘20s, this epic picture was taken of a mounted policeman riding a horse that’s galloping quickly toward Tremont Street. The original shot was taken by photographer Leslie Jones as a part of the Leslie Jones Collection which currently resides in Boston Public Library’s print department. It exists as a single, black & white 4 x 5-inch glass negative.
Appeal to the Great Spirit, 1930
This is another image from the Leslie Jones Collection, titled “Indians from the 101 Ranch visit “Appeal to the Great Spirit” at the M.F.A.” It was taken back in 1930 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. “Appeal to the Great Spirit” is a 1909 equestrian statue by Cyrus Dallin that was part of his series, The Epic of the Indian. A statuette of it is in the permanent collection of the White House.
When Peter returned to Germany, he visited Wiesbaden and found this vintage photograph of the city’s famous cuckoo clock. According to Trip Advisor, “Located in the Kaiser Friedrich Square is a souvenir shop where the storefront has what was named the “world’s largest cuckoo clock”. Built in 1946, the clock is a novelty item to see if you are walking through the area north of the town hall.”
Peter also returned to Prague where, like a previous picture, he visited the sight of the Prague Spring. The city even offers The Communism & Bunker Tour, which shows visitors important locations from The Prague Spring all the way up to the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Also known as the Gentle Revolution, this was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia, occurring from November 17, 1989 to December 29, 1989.
The Doors, 1968
This amazing image is from when The Doors played Frankfurt, Germany’s Romer Square in 1968. It was taken right outside the 800 year-old former chapel of the city council Alte Nikolaikirche (Saint Nicholas). They were a legendary America rock band from Los Angeles, led by notorious frontman Jim Morrison. Some of their outdoor shows caused frenzied scenes between fans and police. Peter captioned this pic with the famous lyric, “The time to hesitate is through.”
British Forces, 1925
Peter visited Kurhaus, Wiesbaden where, almost a century ago, British troops stood in formation in front of a tree that still exists today. They were there relieving French occupation forces. In 1925, the French vacated Germany and were replaced that next January by English infantry companies of the 2nd Battalion. They were there until the end of the decade. After that, over the next three years to 1933, the compound was unoccupied, but occasionally opened to host special events.
Soviet Tank, 1968
This next image was taken back in Prague. Peter said in an interview, “In Boston and stuff, you have a lot of history. But fortunately, we’ve never had foreign tanks rolling on our own streets. As drastic and terrible as some of these wars are, it’s interesting and kind of cool to be able to see some of the stuff that America’s own soil has, fortunately, never gotten the chance to see.”
Commonwealth Collision, 1932
Back in Boston, Peter used another photograph from the Leslie Jones Collection at the Boston Public Library that shows an automotive collision between two vintage vehicles in the neighborhood of Back Bay. The area is known for its rows of Victorian brownstone homes. Peter captioned this image with a hilarious take on the Boston accent, “When you don’t use yah blinkah and turn wicked quick on fahkin Cawm Ave kid.”
Rathaus Wiesbaden, 1927
This image shows The British Army of the Rhine Scottish Guard standing in formation at Rathaus Wiesbaden, or the New Town Hall of the Hessian state capital. It was built in 1883 by Georg von Hauberrisser. The troops are see wearing kilts, a knee-length, skirt-like garment with pleats at the back. They originated in the traditional dress of Gaelic men and boys in the Scottish Highlands. Peter captioned the photo, “Kilts > rompers”
Bad Nauheim, 1959
Above is another in a series of Peter’s pictures that show a young Elvis stationed in Germany. This image, as well as the previous picture, were both taken on the same day in March. Above he’s seen posing on a bridge in his official uniform. He had previously trained at Fort Hood, Texas before joining the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany, on October 1. And there’s still another amazing shot of The King later in this article…
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited Germany, seen above at the landmark Römer building. Peter captioned this powerful photo with, “JFK, who would have turned 100 this year, speaking to a crowd of West Germans on this day in 1963.” Tragically, Kennedy was assassinated on November 22 of that same year in Dallas, Texas while riding in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza at the young age of 46.
Victory Parade, 1945
Peter visited Wilhelmstrasse, a major thoroughfare in the central districts of Berlin, Germany. Back in 1945, forces from the United States, The 270th Engineer Combat Battalion, marched through the streets. Peter captioned this photo with, “American engineers in victory parade after occupying Wiesbaden post-WWII. July 4, 1945.” He often chooses locations in Europe and Boston that haven’t changed much, physically at least, over the years since the original images.
The Rhineland, 1919
Peter captioned the above image with, “French tank crews occupying the Rhineland after WWI, 1919.” The Rhineland is a loosely defined area of Western Germany along the Rhine, a river that flows through Europe. The building is the Kurhaus, a spa house that serves as the capital city’s convention and social center. It also holds the Wiesbaden Casino, or Spielbank, which allows the “highest roulette stakes in Germany” since 2005.
This photo, taken in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was posted with the caption, “Boeing B-17 “Nine-O-Nine” — England, 1944 / New England, 2017.” This was a Flying Fortress heavy bomber, of the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, that completed 140 combat missions during World War II, believed to be the Eighth Air Force record for most missions, without loss to the crews that flew it. This was Peter’s first image of an object, instead of a location.
Wenceslas Square, 1968
Back in Prague, Czech Republic, Peter used a picture from 1968 to make this awesome comparison, which was posted with the caption, “Student demonstration in front of Soviet tanks during the Prague Spring reform movements.” This photo was shot during the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The image shows crowds protesting against the invasion on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on August 21 of that year.
William Harvey Carney, 1800s
The original photo used above is one of the oldest in this article. Peter captioned his superimposition with, “Union veterans of New Bedford in the late 1800s. Fourth from left is William Harvey Carney, born a slave in Virginia and the first African-American recipient of the Medal of Honor.” He was awarded for his gallantry in saving the regimental colors, the American Flag, during the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863.
The King, 1959
This is the final photo of Presley from Peter’s collection, also taken in Bad Nauheim, Germany during his army days. Peter’s caption reads, “Elvis outside the home where he was stationed during his army days in 1959. He would later have the car, a BMW 507 (1 of 252 ever made), repainted from white to red after having to regularly scrub away lipstick marks left by fans.”
Winston Churchill, 1949
Another original image from the Leslie Jones Collection shows British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on Mount Vernon Street in Beacon Hill, Massachusetts. Peter caption the photo with one of Churchill’s famous quotes, “The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.” Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician, army officer, and writer, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.
Boston Public Garden, 1941
Peter often uses photos from the Leslie Jones Collection, this one taken back in 1941 during the winter at the Boston Public Garden. The statue above the man and the horse is the Equestrian Statue of George Washington, designed and cast by Thomas Ball. It is located at the Arlington Street gate facing Commonwealth Avenue. The park is right in the heart of Boston.
Boston Globe photographer Paul J. Connell took the original photo seen above on April 22, 1965. Martin Luther King, Jr. was visiting the Massachusetts State House when this image was captured in the House Chamber where he told a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature that segregation must die if America and democracy are to live. King was an American Baptist minister and civil rights activist.
Czech Radio Building, 1968
Peter captioned the above image with, “The final picture from my Prague Spring series, which shows two men outside the Czech Radio Building walking towards Soviet tanks. Around 15 protesters and employees died defending the station, but held off troops long enough for broadcasts about the invasion to reach the rest of the country.” The original was taken by Josef Koudelka on August 21, 1968.
Great Depression, 1930s
Back in Boston again, Peter used the original photo, another from the Leslie Jones Collection at the Boston Public Library, to capture an image of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. He posted his superimposition with the clever caption, “Uncommon wealth (1930s, Great Depression).” The Great Depression was the longest, deepest, and most widespread economic depression of the 20th century and it’s still used as an example of how bad the world economy can be.
Boston Marathon, 1939
Peter took the image above, with another Leslie Jones photograph, at the sight where the Boston Marathon has taken place since the late 1800s. He captioned his post with, “Ellison Brown, a Narragansett Native American setting a new Boston Marathon record with a time of 2:28:51. His first win in Boston came in 1936, the same year he represented the U.S. at the Berlin Olympics.”
Boston Public Library, 1923
This photo was taken in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library, which was founded in 1848. It’s also the Library for the Commonwealth of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, meaning that all adult residents of the commonwealth are entitled to borrowing and research privileges, and the library receives state funding. It’s the second largest in US behind the Library of Congress.
Massachusetts State House, 1942
Peter captioned the above image with, “Governor Saltonstall (’39-’45) takes part in a “ceremonial torching of Hitler” before cutting down a section of the fence outside the Massachusetts State House. During WWII, Bostonians were encouraged to donate any scrap metal towards the war effort, especially their iron fences. Also notice the State House’s iconic golden dome was repainted dark gray at the time, which prevented the building from being easily seen by enemy planes and ships.”
Memorial Day, 1897
Along with this image, Peter wrote, “Living members of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment the day the Shaw Memorial was unveiled in their honor. The unit, made famous by the movie “Glory,” solely consisted of black enlisted men and white officers, and is most known for their brave attack on Fort Wagner.” Its full name is Robert Gould Shaw and Fifty-fourth Regiment Memorial.
King Albert I, 1919
This photo was taken during the King’s visit to Boston from Belgium in 1919. According to Peter’s caption, WWI had recently ended and the King had personally fought alongside his men, as well as his wife, Elisabeth, who worked as a WWI nurse “while his son Leopold III (left) enlisted as a private at the age of 14… As prince, Albert would often tour Belgium’s working class neighborhoods in disguise to develop an understanding of their living conditions.”
Copley Square, 1945
Above is easily one of Peter’s best, showing the difference between Boston’s past and present. Two different vehicles, one from today and the other from 1945, are juxtaposed at the landmark Copley Square, known as Art Square until 1883, a public square in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. And Peter isn’t the only person who’s experimented with superimposition, check out some other people’s versions of this awesome art form…
Ganung Agung, 1900s
Superimposition has become very popular online and people are taking all kinds of different approaches to the technique. Not all of the subjects are historical photos, like the one above, which shows a more natural setting than Peter’s urban locations. This was posted to Twitter with the caption, “From one of the good folks at Volcano Cafe. Image of new lava dome superimposed onto old photo of entire crater. In order to see how full it is.”
Eiffel Tower, 1900
While Peter’s pictures were take mostly around Boston, Germany and Czech Republic, others have used superimposition in Paris. This image, along with the next couple, were taken by French art director Julien Knez who spent a summer traveling around Paris with a collection of iconic monochrome photos. He visited many of the city’s most famous monuments, with arguably the most well-known seen above. Read ahead to check out more of his work…
Place Vendôme, 1871
Knez had recently finished a project that commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris when he was approached by the publishing house Parigramme to work on the book, “Paris, Fenêtres Sur l’Histoire,” or, “Paris, Windows On History.” The image above shows the Place Vendôme, a square that is the starting point of the rue de la Paix, a fashionable shopping street in the center of the city.
Quai Saint-Michel, 1914
Knez posted on his website, “The overlay of historical photos on contemporary views opened amazing windows to the past. Thus, the event that did not necessarily leave physical evidence, recovers a genuine existence and the city today is seen literally inhabited by its history.” This photo of Notre-Dame, a medieval Catholic cathedral, was taken from the Quai Saint-Michel. Check out the next image, which was done by a different photographer at another location…
Lynchburg’s Burton, 1915
This superimposition was done at the University of Lynchurg, a private college in Virginia. The photo was posted with the caption, “From the #TBT archives: Rachel Basham ’15 superimposed old photo of @lynchburg’s Burton framed atop @DrysdaleLC.” The site is currently the Drysdale Student Center, but the photo shows what the campus looked like years ago. The final photo is another that uses a pop culture icon…
Bob Dylan, 1966
This photo came from Bob Dylan’s 1966 photo shoot from Jacob Street in New York City. It was originally part of a series done by Jerry Schatzberg for the Saturday Evening Post cover, but could be found in other Dylan projects, as well. The image was shared with the caption, “Seen standing nearby Brooklyn Bridge on the defunct Jacob Street (90 Beekman) for inner sleeve of Blonde on Blonde (1966).”