By: Bryan Weinstein
Between the 1880s and 1960s, the Burgert Photography Studio took over 15,000 photographs in and around Tampa Bay. However, in the 1960s, the studio closed and all of their historic photographs were left deteriorating in a South Tampa garage. Fortunately, the Friends of the Hillsborough County Library raised enough money to preserve the photographs.
As a Tampa native and semi-professional photographer, I have always been enamored by the library’s collection of old Burgert photographs. I’ve always found it entertaining to look at the historic architecture and unsettling to see a photograph of a beautiful building that has long since been demolished.
Recently, I began revisiting the locations where the historic Burgert photographs were taken. I wanted to see how the scenes had changed over the years. As a photographer, I also wanted to photograph the scene. What was initially a quick snapshot soon turned into a methodical reproduction of the scene. My goal was to take an identical “re-photograph” of the scene, at the same location and from the same angle as the Burgerts took their original historic photograph. The only difference between the Burgerts’ photograph and my re-photograph would be the elapse of nearly 100 years.
I created a website, www.TampaChanging.com, to showcase my portfolio of Tampa re-photography. On the website, the modern re-photograph is overlaid on top of the original historic photograph allowing the viewer to fade back and forth between the two.
In some photographs, the changes are fairly obvious. Additions have been made to homes, roads have been widened, and surrounding buildings have been demolished. In other photographs, the changes are much more discrete. Only by carefully analyzing these photographs do you realize that, if it were not for the 1920 Model T Ford and the men wearing three-piece suits and fedoras, nothing has changed.
One of my inspirations for this project was the demolition of the Maas Brothers Building. I’ve always found that building to be iconic although, for as long as I remember, blighted. Witnessing the demise of the Maas Brothers building reminded me how, for many of these historic buildings, time is running out.
In an effort to document and re-photograph the historic buildings in the Tampa Bay area, before they too end up in ruins, I am encouraging local photographers, professionals and amateurs alike, to assist by submitting their own re-photographs. I am also encouraging long-time residents, with their own personal collection of historic photographs, to contact me so that their photos can be re-photographed.
Frank Lloyd Wright once said “Architecture is… the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday… or ever will be lived.” While I hope that the rest of Tampa’s historic buildings will be preserved, I know that by re-photographing these remaining architectural records of Tampa’s past, regardless of how prominent or obscure they are, as long as they are re-photographed, they will forever be remembered.