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Interactive Annual 13:

After the Ruins

“A surprisingly personal exploration of the San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake with a contemporary perspective that makes it something more than nostalgic.” —David Young

“With beautiful storytelling and photographs, this experience allows us to revisit a horrific natural disaster and then, leaves us with hope.”—Jeff Benjamin

Overview: A companion to a museum exhibit, this project showcases the recent work of Mark Klett, who spent a year photographing the sites found in historic images from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Filled with explanatory videos, it provides an instructive exploration of Klett’s “rephotographic” artistic method.

  • 13 pairs of images
  • 13 videos, 15 minutes total length
  • Opacity-based slider for interactive photos

Creator’s Comments: “The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco took a risk with its centennial exhibition of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Instead of the predictable survey of vintage art, curator Karin Breuer presented a solo show of contemporary photographer Mark Klett. As an artist, Klett wanted his work to be treated as art, not as history. That meant no lengthy wall labels explaining the context of his images, which consisted of pairs of photos printed alongside each other, one of his next to one of Arnold Genthe’s, the accomplished San Francisco photographer who wandered the city during and after the 1906 disaster.

“In addition, the museum was in a hurry to meet the deadline date of longtime director Harry Parker’s retirement. Parker, whose tenure was dominated by the Loma Prieta earthquake and the resulting damage to his two museums, wanted to go out with an earthquake show that opened in December 2005—three months earlier than expected.

“We had our work cut out for us—deliver history without competing with art, meet a short timeline and please a discerning director.

“Our solution lay in organizing the content around a ‘sense of place.’ The program’s primary interface was an interactive map of the city. All our videos featured Mark standing on site, weaving technical information, anecdotes and history about that specific spot in 1906 and 2006. Our Flash feature superimposed the two points in time and space in a way that let the viewer slide between them.

“While Mark’s re-photography requires of him exact mathematical calculation, it offered us an elastic relationship with chronology. To highlight both aspects—his astonishing precision of camera location and angle and his slightly subversive reversal of time and decay—we allowed some of the people in Genthe’s photos to linger in Klett’s images. The soles of their 1906 shoes touched the 2006 pavement perfectly. Harry loved it.” —Bob Conway

Heath Carlisle, Flash programmer
Michael Rylander, graphic designer
Karin Breuer, curator
Don Farnsworth, animator
Bob Conway, director
Ken Campbell, video director
George Rosenthal, digital video producer
Evan Conway, sound engineer
Mark Klett, contributing artist
Without Walls, project design and development
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, client