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October 16, 2007 > Double Take

Double Take

The Historic Hayward Area Re-photographed, 1880 - 2007

Submitted By Susan May

"History always seems to have happened so far away. But what happened right here in Hayward?" - Milena Penaranda, student, Chabot Art Gallery Program

As Chabot College undergoes a major reconstruction of its forty year old campus, the Chabot Art Gallery will feature an exhibit of before and after photographs, documenting a century's worth of physical changes to the Hayward area at large. This special show was realized through the collaborative efforts of three Hayward-based organizations: the Hayward Area Historical Society, which provided vintage photographs of scenes in Hayward, Castro Valley, and San Lorenzo; the Photo Phantom photography club, whose members re-photographed and re-interpreted those vintage shots; and the students of the Chabot Art Gallery Program, who curate the exhibit under the supervision of their instructor, art historian Kevin Muller.

In what ways has the Hayward area changed over the last hundred years? In what ways has it remained the same? The Double Take exhibit reveals the physical transformation of our region over time, in photographs both old and new. Vintage photographs from the Hayward Area Historical Society were given to the members of Photo Phantom with instructions that each photographer go in search of the site depicted. He or she was then to re-shoot the exact same scene, capturing it as it looks in the present day.

Buildings, street corners, hill views and bay vistas, originally photographed decades ago, were re-photographed today. When hung side by side, these images allow us to see in an instant the changes to our area that were wrought over decades.

To add a note of artistic interpretation to the project, the photographers made a final image, inspired by the location but now entirely the product of their own creative impulse, fully expressive of their inner vision. The end result of each effort is a triptych of photographic images, all three focused on a single subject, but all three revealing that subject through time, through different sets of eyes, and through methods both documentary and artistic.

Photographer Jon Bischofberger, who was given an old photograph of the salt works site near Highway 92 to re-photograph, explained his process to Zee Safi, a Chabot College student and Art Gallery Apprentice. Bischofberger told her that "finding the exact location proved much harder than I expected. Many of the markers in the original photograph were no longer there."

Using his vintage photograph almost like a map, he said he "allowed the original photo to guide me through the process, showing me where to stand, how much sky to include, where to place the building in the viewfinder's frame, whether to weight it more to the left or to the right." His re-photograph shows a dilapidated ruin, which makes an interesting contrast to the thriving, productive salt mill of the original photograph taken in the first or second decade of the last century. In Bischofberger's artistic interpretation, titled "Splintered", broken bits of the salt works lie amidst dark tidal pools. This picture serves as a reminder that nature often outlives our human efforts.

For gallery students, each series of photographs prompted research into local history. Bischofberger's salt works images, for example, were the students' first introduction to Hayward's involvement in the salt industry. Art Gallery Apprentice Raquel Iglesias says she learned that "salt gathering has been practiced in the Bay Area since the days of the native Ohlone, and later by the workforce of the Mission San Jose. Their efforts inspired former sea captain John Johnson to create the first commercial solar salt harvest from the east bay in 1854." Iglesias is currently writing a label on the salt works to accompany Bischofberger's photographs.

Student Jose Ferreira commented that seeing the new next to the old teaches us interesting lessons. "Even though many things have changed in Hayward since the 1900s, some things still remain the same. The entrepreneurial spirit of the past can be seen in the storefronts of today. The cultural diversity that Hayward has today dates back to our very beginning, from the Native Americans who gathered acorns in our hills, to the Spanish who worked the land as part of Mission San Jose, to the Mexicans who operated Rancho San Lorenzo, to the Portuguese, who ran the Azores Hotel in downtown Hayward." Ferreira adds, "This show isn't just a simple here and now, but a deeper look into our past and our future in this city."

Everyone is welcome to join us for a free opening night reception on Thursday, Oct. 18 from 6:30 - 9 p.m. in the Chabot Art Gallery (Room 1002 on the Chabot campus). Please join us for refreshments, an opportunity meet the student curators, and to talk with the photographers. The exhibit will run from Oct. 18 - Dec. 11.

The Chabot Art Gallery is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m., and in the evenings on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 - 7 p.m. The Chabot Art Gallery is open during the campus remodel. Please excuse the temporary "construction zone" look of the campus, and follow the Art Gallery signs to find your way to Room 1002. Please call (510) 723-6838 for more information.

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