The 1906 Quake, Then and Now
Just after 5am on an April morning in 1906, San Francisco endured one of the most devastating natural disasters the US has ever seen...
Just after 5am on an April morning in 1906, San Francisco endured one of the most devastating natural disasters the US has ever seen. Rupturing 290 miles of ground surface along the San Andreas fault, affecting roughly 375,000 square miles (half of which was under the Pacific Ocean), shifting the ground at about 5 feet per second, and causing an estimated $400 million ($8 billion in today’s dollars) in property damage – it’s safe to say it was the city’s worst morning.
The destruction wasn’t limited to San Francisco, either. There were recorded deaths in Santa Rosa, San Jose, and Santa Cruz as well. However, there’s a bit of discrepancy about the deaths; at the time, there were 375 deaths reported, but most estimate that number being closer to 3,000. Of San Francisco’s 410k population, about 275k were displaced. A fire, caused by the quake, lasted for days after the event. 80% of the city had been destroyed.
This was one of the first natural disasters to be photographed.
Shawn Clover is a San Franciscan photographer who had grown tired of seeing ‘then and now’ photo essays that were sloppy. He decided to reach back into the archives of the destruction caused by the 1906 earthquake and produce his own example – one that set a new bar of excellence within the genre. Rather than trying to approximate where the photos were taken, Shawn studied them, asking himself where, exactly, the photographer stood, how high off the ground the camera was, what the lighting of the shot was, etc. In order to effectively layer the photos, he needed to be as exact as possible.
Instead of creating a tear-away image, Shawn softly blended the two photographs together. Of course, many of the old photos were unusable because present day San Francisco has been rebuilt, and there are now buildings and trees where photographers had stood back in 1906. However, he persevered, creating the harrowingly beautiful photos you see today.
Head over to Shawn Clover’s website to see the rest of his incredible Photoshop creations.
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