Time Travel Photography: The 'Back to the Future' Project

How Irina Werning's portrait series of people then and now became a global sensation

A few years back, Argentinian artist Irina Werning made a viral splash with her Back to the Future photo project. The concept is genius in its simplicity — take a photograph from the past and painstakingly recreate it with the same subject in the present. The result is a visual treat — a compare-and-contrast between then and now that can be hilarious one second, sobering and reflective the next.

In this short video profile from U.K.-based filmmaker Jamie Jessett we are given a brief glimpse into Werning’s creative process. It reveals that her work is far more complex than a cursory glance might first suggest. Traveling across the world to her subjects, Werning makes a great effort to recreate each photo exactly, from the locations to the period-appropriate props to identical post-processing effects. Her fastidious attention to detail is what makes the project, and her resulting photos, so special and captivating. She gets to know her subjects, and as a result, their personality shines through each photograph she takes.

Filmmaker Jamie Jessett recalls, “I met with Irina who was in London for a short time as part of her world tour for the project. She blew me away -- I'd never met anybody with such a constantly alert look in their eyes.”

This profile has been broadcast on BBC Channel 4’s The Shooting Gallery. Be sure to check out more of director Jamie Jessett’s work at the production company Lemonade Money or on Vimeo. His most recent documentary short, A Man Who Delivers, is an experimental short about the day in the life of a London cocaine dealer. It’s most certainly worth a watch.

Ivan Kander is a filmmaker, writer, video editor, and motion-graphic artist from Washington, D.C. He is also an assistant editor at the short-film curation site, Short of the Week. His personal site is www.lucky9studios.com.

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