December 6, 2012Vol. 42, Issue 9

Forgotten Stories: Re-Photography of Historic Chico

Tyler Ash is a graduate of CSU, Chico and a former photography student of Byron Wolfe. As Wolfe’s student, he completed a re-photography of historic Chico. He received an Award for Undergraduate Research and Creativity grant in spring 2012, with which he purchased fine art paper for print sets of the work for a gallery show, for a personal portfolio, and as a donation to Meriam Library Special Collections. Ash’s photos were exhibited during the month of November in the 3rd Floor Gallery of the BMU.

Forgotten Stories: Re-Photography of Historic Chico

by Tyler Ash

It isn’t always apparent to us that our surroundings have not always looked the same as they do today. Dirt roads become paved over with asphalt. Buildings are demolished or repurposed. Trees grow taller and mountains erode. Time, as we know, changes things, and our physical environment is no exception. Photography, or more specifically, re-photography, helps fill in the gap between the past and the present. By simply taking an old photograph and locating the exact spot the photo was taken, and then taking a photo of the spot in its present-day form, you can create a visual window that goes back in time from the present. Re-Photography replaces old landscapes within the context of their modern existence, which gives it the ability to retell the forgotten stories of our environment and can take the viewer back in time for a moment, however brief that moment may be.

For nearly a year now, I have acquired a distinct sense of local history, so much so that by merely walking around town, I can “see” the past. I can imagine buildings downtown the way they originally looked. I can visualize the acres of farmland and forest that were cemented over and covered up forever. I can tell you that the El Rey Theater used to be the Majestic Theater and that the Chico Museum used to be the Chico Carnegie Library. I know that Enloe Hospital was originally on Flume Street, that Meriam Library covers the area the original Chico High School formerly occupied, and that the Chico Municipal Center sits over the very spot the Chico Fire Department once sat.

This approach to photography has fundamentally altered my view of history. Through this project, I have found a way to share my understanding of Chico’s past with the public, as well as a way for others to become more knowledgeable on the history of the city they know and love. The nature of this project is to help other Chicoans become acquainted with their city in a way that they can directly recognize and appreciate the rich history their city possesses.