The sad reality that comes along with our reliance on the internet to deliver us everything is that sadly, some things get left out. Such is the case with George Bradford Brainerd, an accomplished New York photographer who took many of the earliest photographs of NYC during the late 19th century. Admittedly, we had never heard of the man, that is until we stumbled upon Jordan Liles‘ amazing photography project, which recreates Brainerd’s images of the city in the exact location they were taken more than one hundred years later.
According to Liles’ website, this was a project inspired by seeing photo galleries that coupled images of New York taken 50 years apart. His idea was to take it a step further by asking himself: “Instead of going back 50 years, what if we could compare today to the earliest surviving photos?” That is how he discovered the work of Brainerd, who had indeed taken some of the earliest known photographs of the city, and judging by Liles’ collection, they were brilliant ones at that. The photos that Liles set out to recreate were all originally taken between 1872 and 1887. Liles took this upon himself as a personal project, compiling a series of brilliantly accurate recreations which he says were “a reason to go out on my bike on weekend mornings for almost a year to shoot photographs, many times returning to the same spots over and over to do re shoots if I wasn’t satisfied with previous results.”
A big shout out is deserved for Liles and all of the hard word and dedication that went into making this amazing project a reality. Some well-deserved exposure is also due to Brainerd’s work in preserving such long forgotten images of NYC’s past. On his website, you can view the before and after shots of each location by simply moving your cursor over the images.
Brooklyn Bridge (Note the water at the current location of Brooklyn Bridge Park, constructed atop piers).
883 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.
Grand Army Plaza (taken from the third story window of the Brooklyn Public Library).
Fulton Street and Flatbush Avenue.
City Hall, before and after the Manhattan Municipal Building opened behind it in 1914 on 1 Centre Street to accommodate increased governmental space demands.
The corner of Fulton and Duffield Street in Brooklyn. Liles said that he discovered the location of this photograph after researching the “Japanese Store” found in the background of Brainerd’s original photograph. This was taken in a similar location as many of the other photos.
You can check out Jordan Lile’s full gallery of photographs by visiting his website.