Oregon: Then & Now—A Review

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Audrey Sauble
Lake Oswego
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Review of book “Oregon: Then & Now”

Even the permanent changes sometimes—trees grow up, roads change, old buildings disappear and new ones take their places.

Often, after the landscape changes, the old view vanishes completely. “Oregon: Then & Now” restores some of that lost past from Oregon’s history.

I happened to stumble across “Oregon: Then & Now” while browsing the history section at my library. The book is a history of sorts, and a coffee-table album, but s a photo album only, “Oregon: Then & Now” might be a trifle dull—Gifford’s photos are black-and-white, without the stark contrasts that make Ansel Adams’ images so famous, while Terrill imitates the originals closely, though in color.

So, why spend time on yet another photo book? I picked it up out of curiosity, but decided to look deeper when I realized its unique claim. This book is a collection of images taken by two Oregon photographers in two different centuries.

In one set of photos, Benjamin Gifford recorded early Oregon scenes, from the streets of Portland to the Columbia River Highway, during the late 1800s. Then, a hundred years later, Steve Terrill retraced Gifford’s photographic trail. Terrill tracked Gifford’s photos to their original location and reshot the photos, matching Gifford’s images as closely as possible. Oregon: Then & Now displays the old and the new images side by side to show how the local landscapes have changed over the years.

In some cases, the differences are subtle—as in a photo comparison of Multnomah Falls now and then. In other cases, buildings have disappeared, or roads that used to be muddy side-streets have expanded into busy thoroughfares. Either way, I found the book an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, looking through the pages of history.