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Past & Present: The 1906 Earthquake Blended into Modern Day San Francisco

By fotosiamo on September 5th 2012

Just over a hundred years ago on April 18, 1906, a savage earthquake wreaked havoc in the city of San Francisco. Around 25,000 buildings in 490 city blocks were leveled, and the city-wide fire raged on for four days and four nights. Even though photography was still a relatively new invention, photographers were present to document the devastation that struck San Francisco that morning.

Photographer Shawn Clover saw these images and was inspired to come up with a series of “past and present” photos, where he combined the photos from the past with those of modern day San Francisco. For his two collections, 1906 + 2010: The Earthquake Blend and 1906 + Today: The Earthquake Blend (Part II) , Shawn spent a lot of time and effort in order to precisely capture the photos of today from the exact locations where the photographers from the past shot their images. Every detail was thought over, from the height of the camera to the location of the sun.

Where was the exact spot the photographer stood? What was the equivalent focal length of his camera’s lens combined with the film medium? How high off the ground was the camera? Where was the sun in the sky? Everything needs to be precise when layering two photos on top of each other. My original idea was to tear away a piece of the modern photo to expose the 1906 photo, but after playing around a bit, everything seemed more interesting when the two were softly blended together.

– Shawn Clover

What Shawn came up with are mesmerizing and haunting: Ghosts from the past that haunt the modern life of today.

You can see the rest of his images on his website:

1906 + 2010: The Earthquake Blend
1906 + Today: The Earthquake Blend (Part II)

S Van Ness

Cars travel down S. Van Ness, which has buckled after the quake

Old St. Marys Cathedral and California Street

Passing cable cars offer a view of the destruction of California Street. Old St. Marys Cathedral has escaped destruction.

Cable car #455

Cable car #455 rests halfway in the partially-detroyed cable car barn

Valencia St. Hotel

A bicyclist rides towards the fallen Valencia St. Hotel and a huge sinkhole that has opened up in the street

The Hibernia Bank on Jones St

Pedestrians cross Jones St towards a pile of rubble on Market Street. The Hibernia Bank building is burned out, but still standing strong.


Joe is a rising fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs. Be sure to check out his work at and connect with him on Google Plus and on Facebook


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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing

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  2. Ed Rhodes

    nice composites

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  3. Meganpenelope

    Amazing. One thing, I wonder if they’d look better with the modern photographs in black and white? The fact that they are two photographs blended together would be less obvious but the impact would be more significant as the viewer notices the contrast in the two scenes. A view familiar to them, yet drastically different. The colour makes it obvious to anyone that they are two photographs sewn together but sometimes subtlety is more powerful. Just a thought anyway!

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  4. Vishal

    Very nice attempt

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  5. Birgit

    I’m really impressed by the idea and how much you thought for making a perfect match! Great series!

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  6. Ryan Phillips

    Wow, these are amazing. The detail as you say is very precise! well done to Shawn. 

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