Tampa Changing: Rephotography Shows City Then And Now

28 Mar

Published in 83 Degrees Media, 1.8.13

Rephotography, or taking a repeat picture of the same site with a time lag between the images, has been around in a formal way since the 1970s. Some scientists and sociologists even use the technique to study changing ecosystems or social change. For Bryan Weinstein of Tampa, it’s both a passion and an art.

“It’s a honor that people like what I’m doing and want to hang [my photos] up in their place of business,” says Weinstein. “That’s really all I’m looking for.”

A Tampa native and University of South Florida graduate, Weinstein has been a photographer for 15 years. While obtaining his engineering degree, he took an art collective class that changed his perspective on architecture and history. Having spent a lot of time photographing during his travels, he realized there’s a wealth of history in Tampa that he was taking for granted. From that, Tampa Changing was born.

In 2009, Weinstein tapped into a repository of 15,000 photos of the Tampa area at the Hillsborough County Public LIbrary, taken 70 to 100 years ago by well-known photographers the Burgert Brothers. The pictures provide a glimpse into Tampa’ rich history. Among the images are Clydesdales at city hall, a streetcar on Kennedy Boulevard (formerly Grand Central Avenue), cigar factories in action, and even an automobile driving up the steps of the downtown post office during a publicity stunt.

Comparing Present To Past

Weinstein began identifying buildings from the photo collection and taking a modern photograph of the same building, getting as close to an exact match as possible while accounting for angles and relations to other buildings. The historic and modern photos are displayed on the Tampa Changing website, providing a view of how the buildings and culture have changed through the years.

Weinstein conducts additional research to tell the story behind the historic photos, like a house in Ybor City that was originally owned in 1924 by Czechoslovakian immigrants and celery farmers named the Hesouns.

To date, Weinstein has taken 175 rephotographs in and around Tampa Bay, as well as an additional 35 in other locations, including St. Augustine and Cuba. His most recent projects feature the Cuban Club in Ybor City and the newly restored Floridan Hotel (now the Floridan Palace).

Photos have been on display and are available for purchase at the Tampa Bay History Center and will soon be included in an app on mycitybefore.com, scheduled to launch in early 2013.

The project has shown Weinstein the importance of preserving Tampa’s history and the need to preserve the buildings we still have, and he hopes it will do the same for others.

“It goes back to preservation,” says Weinstein. “Tampa really does have a rich history. You just have to dig around a little to find it.”

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