-> 2011 -> Creating the Laphroaig Islay Windows into the Past

Diluain, 15/Aug/2011

Creating the Laphroaig Islay Windows into the Past

Islay Pictures in stencil

Earlier this year, in April to be precise, I printed off some pictures to take them to Islay to take some more pictures. This weekend I finally got around to create the first page with some of the results, the Window into the Past - Laphroaig Distillery, Isle of Islay page. Some of you might be interested in a bit of background, so I thought I write up a few things about the project:

I'm not sure where I first came across the idea, it might have been through the German Spreeblick blog writing about ‘Looking Into The Past’. I decided I had to do this with some old Islay pictures as well: You take an old picture (I'd say ideally 30-40 or more years old, alternatively something from your childhood or youth), print it off, then visit the location of the picture and holding the picture into the view take a new picture in the current surroundings. It is a variation of the ‘Then and Now’ pictures many will be familiar with, only here you have what I call a ‘Window into the Past’.

A great opportunity to create a series of pictures from one place I decided would be a distillery. Thinking that he probably had quite a few old pictures from his fantastic The Legend of Laphroaig book I contacted Marcel van Gils (aka the Laphroaig Collector). Marcel was able to help and within a few days sent me some great pictures, perfect for my plans.

Picture of a picture within a picture, old within new, of Laphroaig distillery

The first step was to print them, which I did just on normal A4 paper. To give them some stability when holding them up I glued them on some thin cardboard I managed to find in the supermarket, cutting it to size where necessary. Now I was ready for the journey to Islay.

Once on Islay I did a practice run with some other pictures, then when I was in the area drove to Laphroaig for the real thing. Some of them turned out very well, while it took me a while to get them to align they turned out really well, like the one above. Others I just couldn't get to work, they just wouldn't align, like the the following one:

Picture of a picture within a picture, old within new, of the yard at Laphroaig distillery

Speaking with Mark Unsworth of Islay Studios (who had used old pictures for his excellent Islay Past and Present book) I learned why I had struggled with some of the pictures: The cameras and in particular the lenses used for these old pictures were of course nothing like the lenses we use today. The lenses were effectively telephoto lenses, providing a completely different view/ perspective than the wide angle lens I was using. Mark had struggled with similar problems when he was trying to recreate some of the views.

Of course some buildings had changed hugely as well, either having been demolished or newly built, making it very tricky to align (or cleverly hide) them. Still, after a few hours of a lot of trial and error with intermittent successes I had a number of promising results, seven of which made it on to the final page. Which was about time, as by then a second problem had arrived: Needing my left hand to hold the old picture into the frame I had to hold and operate the heavy SLR with just my right arm. After a couple of hours I certainly noticed it…

I hope you like the project and enjoyed the pictures as much as I did creating them. Assuming I can obtain enough other old Islay pictures I'm hoping to complete a few more similar projects, I'm certainly planning to create a page with pictures from various locations on Islay.

PS: I've just remembered that I've written about this project previously, although not in as much detail and more generally: Windows into Islay's Past - Preview.

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