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Environmental Rephotography: Visually Mapping Time, Change and Experience

Mark Klett and Tyrone Martinsson

Repeat Photography

or “rephotography”

Repeat photography, or “rephotography,” is among the most important photographic techniques to address time, change, and perception of the environment. One or more photographs made at different times are repeated to form points of comparison, anchoring historical documents with physical locations. Rephotography forms a dialogue with time, history, and memory. The results can contribute to our understanding of the environment and its past, affecting decisions regarding the paths we choose to take into the future. This chapter will explore the process of rephotography by looking at how it was used in several studies. First, three projects identify physical and cultural changes in the American West. The methods involved are described and illustrate what can be learned from rephotographs. The second part of this chapter describes a project documenting environmental concerns from Svalbard in the Arctic, illustrating in dramatic fashion how rephotographs are used to record receding glaciers and the effects of climate change. These projects involve a merger of creative practice, research and scientific interpretation. Taken together they present examples of how rephotography can be used to examine the environment and human interventions, providing perspectives on both time and change.

—Illustrations for Chapter 9, Klett and Martinssen, in Joni Adamson and Michael Davis, eds. Humanities for the Environment (HfE): Integrating Knowledge, Forging New Constellations of Practice. Environmental Humanities Series, Iain McCalman and Libby Robin, Eds. New York and London: Routledge, 2017.