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.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Video

Just In