Going back in time with St. Joseph’s Church

I have an idea on how to create a stunning artwork out of a photograph and a postcard. Follow along with me, this is fun.

I’ve tried working with this “photograph a building and then superimpose an old postcard on that building’s photo” gimmick off and on for a while. It’s a tough concept, and there are many variables to consider for a successful attempt. You need to stand at the exact location and elevation where the original photo was achieved. Then you have to carefully layer the old postcard over the photo, so that everything lines up. And then, there’s some small tugs and pulls on the photograph, because there’s always adjustments here and there. And you can’t adjust the postcard – it has to remain the exact size in the final construct. Or you’ll end up with a fun-house mirror effect, which will look totally garish.

So anyway … here’s my postcard.

This is postcard A7584, published by the Northern News Company of Troy, N.Y. Northern News manufactured dozens of Troy-centric postcards, especially if you want to recreate architecture from The Gilded Age by using artifacts manufactured DURING the Gilded Age. Judging from the handwriting on the “message” side of the postcard, this may have been manufactured circa 1907. So this card is at least 115 years old.

The photo is of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Green Island, situated on the corners of George and Swan Streets.

St. Joseph’s cornerstone dates construction in 1890, replacing a previous wooden-framed Catholic church across the street (that area was later re-used as a parochial school, and today exists as senior citizen housing). In 2005, St. Joseph’s and five other Catholic churches in the area had their parishes combined as Immaculate Heart of Mary in Watervliet. St. Joseph’s Church continued holding services until the building was closed and de-consecrated in 2010.

Today, the church building still stands on the corner of George and Swan, but it remains empty inside. Hopefully at some point in time a new faith will enter and re-consecrate the building. But for now, it stands as a community memorial.

I looked at the postcard. Wow, the church looked nice back then. A typical church in a small factory town. No telephone poles or overhead lights, such as exist at that spot today.

Okay. Off to the intersection of George and Swan Streets in Green Island.

I have to use the postcard to understand perspective for the photo. The photo has to be at that location. I should only see “X” amount of side wall in the church. I should only see “Y” amount of angle in the George and Swan Street intersections. These are the times when I really could use a slide ruler. These are also the times when I really could use instructions on HOW TO USE a slide ruler.

Okay. It’s Thursday night. Tomorrow morning, I’ll go out there with my camera and get a “today” photo, and try to superimpose it with the postcard.

Went to sleep Thursday night.

Woke up Friday morning.

Went outside.

Ran back inside. Nor’easter just came for a visit. Eight inches of blowing snow outside. It looks like someone dropped a Hallmark Christmas movie outside my street, complete with Lacey Chabert and Candace Cameron Bure as carolers.

Damn. This isn’t what I want …

Or is it?

What the hell. Go back to the corner of George and Swan, and see what can be achieved.

A few photos here and there, attempting to replicate the exact position where the original artist created the original St. Joseph’s Church image a century ago.

St. Joseph’s Church, Green Island, N.Y. Google Pixel 6 Pro camera. (c) 2022 Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Best shot of the batch, complete with telephone wires, a big red STOP sign, and accident-inducing ground cover. Yeesh.

Okay. Now to see if I got my measurements correct.

Photo saved in editing software. Postcard scanned.

Carefully … layer the postcard onto the image … and …

St. Joseph’s Church with Postcard. Google Pixel 6 Pro camera, postcard circa 1907. Photo (c) 2022 Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Holy time travel, Batman.

I made it work.

Now whether or not I can even consider entering this in competition is a tricky choice. That postcard image was not taken by me. So unless I can find a category that allows multimedia collages, it won’t be eligible for my summer competitions.

But it was an image that features architecture in Albany County.

And I know one art show for which that concept is a perfect entry.

Definitely short pile for BUILT, if you know what I mean. 😀