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Photographer Reshoots Some of the Oldest Surviving Photos of New York

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For the past two years, photographer Jordan Liles has been researching the life and work of George Bradford Brainerd, a lesser-known 19th-century photographer who shot 2,500 photos of New York before he died in 1887 at the age of 42.

Starting in 2013, Liles has also been visiting the locations of Brainerd’s photos — some of the oldest surviving images of New York — recreating the shots to show how New York has changed over the past 140 years.

Liles has so far recreated 28 Brainerd photos that were made between 1872 and 1887.

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge
883 Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn
883 Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn
Behind Borough Hall in Brooklyn
Behind Borough Hall in Brooklyn
Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights
Bow Bridge in Central Park
Bow Bridge in Central Park
The main fountain in Central Park
The main fountain in Central Park
Central Park
Central Park
2543 Church Avenue in Brooklyn
2543 Church Avenue in Brooklyn
City Hall in New York
City Hall in New York
The corner of Fulton and Duffield
The corner of Fulton and Duffield
Just west of the Fulton Street and Flatbush Avenue intersection
Just west of the Fulton Street and Flatbush Avenue intersection
Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn
Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn
Brooklyn's Prospect Park
Brooklyn’s Prospect Park
Brooklyn's Prospect Park
Brooklyn’s Prospect Park
2274 Church Avenue in Brooklyn, once known as Public School No. 1
2274 Church Avenue in Brooklyn, once known as Public School No. 1
On Old Fulton Street looking toward the water and Manhattan
On Old Fulton Street looking toward the water and Manhattan
Brooklyn Bridge on Columbia Heights
Brooklyn Bridge on Columbia Heights
Flatbush Town Hall at 35 Snyder Avenue
Flatbush Town Hall at 35 Snyder Avenue

Liles says his goal with this project is to help spread the word about Brainerd’s “mostly forgotten accomplishments.” He has documented his efforts in a 1.5-minute trailer, a 6.5-minute short film, and and a 31-minute behind-the-scenes video:

Brainerd’s photographic legacy is largely held by the Brooklyn Museum, which owns about 1,900 of his glass plate negatives.


Image credits: Modern photographs by Jordan Liles and used with permission

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