Rephotographic surveys

A rephotographic survey is an attempt by a documentary photographer/scholar to understand changes in the landscape by making a contemporary photograph at the same spot as a historical one and comparing the two images. The passage of time in these photographic pairs is often a reflection of human impact on the land. Three scholars at the University of Nevada, Reno—documentary photographer Peter Goin, historian Elizabeth Raymond, and archivist Robert Blesse— produced a rephotographic survey of Lake Tahoe entitled Stopping Time, and another more recently, South Lake Tahoe: Then and Now. This work is notable, in part, because the changes it illustrates are often from the nearly total clear-cutting of forests in the nineteenth century in order to build Virginia City, and Comstock mines to a more pristine appearance in the late twentieth century when Lake Tahoe’s principal use was for recreation and tourism.

While the opportunities for rephotography depend on the visual record, there are numerous images within South Lake Tahoe that provide a new vision of the nature and character of the city as a place. The airport at South Lake Tahoe is a part of transportation history, yet little is truly known about its history. Although most of the earlier visitors to Lake Tahoe experienced the lake via steamers, or water transport, the modern-era visitor is more acquainted with Lake Tahoe’s beauty via the automobile. Early images from the California Transportation Department document the development of the South Lake Tahoe region. Lake Tahoe is a tourist destination, above all else. Camp Richardson, the Tahoe Keys, Tahoe Valley, Emerald Bay, Fannette Island, Fallen Leaf Lake and Eagle Falls … are all heavily visited areas with fascinating cultural histories. The transformation to a thoroughly recreational landscape is part of the lore of Lake Tahoe, for better or for worse. Much of the Tahoe landscape has been preserved, particularly after the rise of the second- and third- growth forests that have blanketed the terrain.

Rephotographic points

AFS Point A – Angora Fire Lookout (N38˚52’55.02” W120˚03’17.54” Elevation 7288’)