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How do places change and grow over time?

I GREW UP IN MARIETTA, Georgia near the Chattahoochee River. Like most places, there was a rich history to everything–the woods we played in, the stores where we bought our food, the roads we drove our cars and road our bikes on–although as is usually the case , it wasn’t something readily accessible or spoken about. They were just woods and roads and stores. Few people knew where their names came from or what their stories were.

Only now after having grown up and seen the place change over 30 years, do I realize how unique this particular corner of the world really is.

The following photo essay shows 21 iconic places with photos taken a century ago compared to present day. In some places, the changes have been dramatic. Others seem to have changed little at all. As you look through the photos, think about where you came from and how it’s changed in your lifetime, and over the last century.



About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • Carlo Alcos

    This is great. I spent my childhood years in a little place called Walnut Grove in Langley, BC (about 45 mins outside Vancouver, Canada). It used to be a plethora of open fields we used to run around in and play in (back when parents used to let their kids do that). Now it’s all developed with condos and shops.

    I’m gonna check around and see if I can find a comparison on Flickr.

    • David Miller

      thanks carlo. let me know if you can find the photos, and i’ll embed here in the comments.

  • Liv

    What a spectacular assemblage of photos! I pored over this article. Thank you for sharing this piece with us.

    • David Miller

      thanks Liv.

  • Eva

    David, fabulous photo essay! One quick note: Tower Bridge is mislabeled in the header as London Bridge (it’s correct in the caption).

    • David Miller

      Good catch Eva, thanks!

  • JoAnna

    Great piece David! I love to check out comparisons between Las Vegas of today and yesterday. It seems to change by the month!

  • Justin

    What a smashing idea for a photo essay, you must have really put on the twead hat and pulled out the magnifying glass to find all of those pics. Good effort gumshoe!

  • Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things

    I love the photo essays matador has been doing lately. keep it up!

  • Elizabeth

    This is AWESOME. You immediately reminded me of Gettysburg, PA in the first paragraph – and York and Hanover, nearby. Gettysburg’s battlefields are still recognizable to their state in 1863 as the City Counsel continuously renovates and replants, maintaining their historical authenticity. Areas in the latter cities, however, where J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry raced up Route 74 to meet Gen. Lee, are hardly recognizable- spotted with ice cream shops and car dealerships. At the battle of Hanover (Jun 30th of that year), Brig. Gen. George A. Custer famously galloped into battle, leaping over a large creek to meet his foe. Today that creek is an empty drainage ditch on the side of the road, forgotten by all who pass it. Too many small towns have witnessed history we can’t fathom now, in our old farmhouses and on those winding back roads.

    We’re so fortunate this hasn’t happened to Gettysburg. Reading ‘Killer’s Angels’, you’ll connect every vivid description with ridges and vistas that remain as they were. The park has done a wonderful job posting boards with laminated photographs from after the battle at their original sites. A couple hundred yards from Devil’s Den, for example, is a chilling photograph that depicts a Confederate, fallen and mangled amidst the rocks. Seeing the rocks unchanged but now clean and wreathed in wild roses connects you to the young man and his history in an incredible way. It’s heart-breaking, perhaps morbid, but you never forget in Gettysburg. We drink from wells someone else has dug!

    • David Miller

      thanks for the kind words and for sharing that Elizabeth.

      ‘we drink from the wells someone else has dug.’

      that’s some ground-level truth.

  • Keith

    Just going by the pictures, this actually made me feel pretty good that things haven’t changed as much as I perceived them to have. Thanks!

  • anna

    Um, that’s not the leaning tower of Pisa in your photo.

  • Paul Sullivan

    Absorbing and poignant stuff. With so much focus on the ‘now’ these days it’s so easy to forget the ‘then’. Thanks for bringing some of it back here. Instructive stuff.

  • Lola

    Hauntingly beautiful! It’s fascinating how much we’ve lost historically to “advance.”

    Totally appreciate the effort you guys put into this.

  • Christine Garvin

    Such a cool f’in photo essay, David. I’ve gone back over it several times – it’s so interesting to look at the details that have changed in each place. Makes you think about other things in your own life that have changed – we often think so little has changed, or so much has changed, but don’t have a true grasp on what the reality is. This is one way you can see why photography is so important in capturing place.

  • The Jetpacker

    Freaky how we’re either cluttering or destroying some of the world’s great treasures.

    Great job! Let’s hope when this list comes out in another hundred years, we can still see these monuments without a McDonald’s blocking the view.

    • David Miller

      ‘Let’s hope when this list comes out in another hundred years, we can still see these monuments without a McDonald’s blocking the view.’

      just thinking about that was so strange.

      thanks for the comment.

  • Cornelius Aesop

    the pictures and simply the idea of doing the comparison is great. When I was living in Rio de Janeiro I started watching this show called New Amsterdam which never made it past its 8th episode. But more importantly, the main character a man who had seemed to live since the days of the ‘New World’ took a photograph of downtown New York every year. The photo progression of new york is amazing and If only we could do something similar to these photos. While some places are the same, the Great Wall, others have changed greatly. If you can find one of Rio it would be great, on the side of the Copacabana hotel are photos of the beach nearly a hundred years back and it was the only building on the beach at the time.

  • Gabriela Garcia

    Really enjoyed this photo essay. That’s why travel never gets old…the same places you’ve traversed can become different worlds with the passage of time.

  • Nancy D. Brown

    So many places I have yet to see with my own eyes. I’m off to Norway mid August and will be viewing glaciers on the Hurtigruten ship. Thanks for the photo essay.

  • Robin

    Really interesting topic and great photos.I loved those old photos especially.My hometown Shenyang is the previous capital of Qing Dynasty.They lived in the palace-Shenyang Gugong before moving to the Forbbiden City in Beijing. I found two photos as “before” and “now” of the shopping center near the palace.

    A Chinese saying suddenly came across my mind- The things are still there,while the men are not the same ones anymore.

    • David Miller

      thanks for sharing those shots Robin.

      that saying seems true.

  • Jacquie F

    Love the photo comparisons – the black and white against the color is really a dramatic way to show a century of change.

    • David Miller

      thanks for the comments.

  • Sophie

    Super idea for a photo essay! I adore looking at old photos, esp. of my hometown Drammen (in Norway). It looks much the same today as it did 100 years ago.

  • Andi

    What a fantastic post!!! I really enjoyed seeing the contrasts.

    • David Miller

      thanks for commenting. glad you enjoyed this post.


    Great list and pictures! It’s amazing how places change over time.

  • Andreas

    Its amazing how things changes.

  • Katherine

    Beautiful, thank you for this.

  • mattnnz

    Thank you Matador for making these pics into a webpage and not one those awful flash slide shows!

  • Katrina Reeves

    This was a really fantastic idea!

    It’s astounding to think of how things will change in the next 100 years. Will pictures of our current towns be pored over by eager travelers on some new form of media? Will they be reflecting on the ‘olden times’ and think about how ‘simple’ things seemed without [some new sorts of innovations/technology]?

  • Christine B.Osborne

    I don’t think your choice of contrasting architecture/cities is very good and the worst aspect, is there are few dates of the earlier images – ie. what date was the photo taken of Mecca? I would further ask, what is so different in many of the photos selected ie. Tower Bridge and Parc Monceau? Sydney is an exception but you are out on your dates re. the ‘ethnic peoples.’ A professional picture researcher and a photographer of ‘ today’ could have come up with better, more startling examples of contrasts. With regrets, but it looks just like a desk job.

  • Richard

    That’s not the Tower of Pisa. That’s the Duomo, Pisa’s Cathedral.

  • chris

    What about Rio de Janeiro? There are at least 3 iconic images and not one is included here :(

  • Taibah

    The everest?

  • attic

    way to implicitly take sides with your caption for Jerusalem by associating the city as first belonging to the Biblical figures of David and Solomon, who may or may not have actually existed, ruled kingdoms, or had palaces where Jerusalem stands today, and ignoring anything before the biblical period.
    on another note, of all the modern photos of the taj mahal, you choose that one?

  • Matt

    Great pics. Seems a shame some of these places have lost their history, like Shanghai especially.

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