You’re walking down a street, and in your pocket you have an old photograph of your parents standing under the marquee at the downtown movie theater. Using your nostalgia-inspired creativity and new digital camera, you seek to recreate the scene exactly as it was. As the photographer, you kneel on the ground and point your camera up at the marquee, which hangs over where the young couple stood. You take the picture and plan to one day frame it next to the old photograph, comparing how much has changed and how much remained the same. This is rephotography.
Well, now there is new software in the works that will aid with this rephotographic process. And, since the computer will be performing most of the rephotographic juxtapositions, the process has a name: computational rephotography.
The computational rephotographic software is the brainchild of some nice fellows over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You can view the entire of the process, which breaks down exactly what the software does and how it computes the rephotographic juxtapositions, cleverly disambiguating between “the six degrees of freedom of 3D translation and rotation, and the confounding similarity between the effects of camera zoom and dolly,” assuming the rephotograph is ‘well-aligned.’ Got that? If you need more visual aids, there are a few walkthrough videos that help explain the process in detail.
Historypin is a Flickr-type website that both uses and hosts this type of software and photography. The website has a large database of vintage photographs, most of which are linked to Google Maps coordinates. If you want to make a trip of it, you can even go on a rephotographic excursion.
Eventually the computational rephotographic software will develop into a portable application for your camera or smartphone. This will present dozens of new opportunities for networking, photographing, and cataloging the increasingly expansive boundaries of history.