I came across this striking photo, top, taken by Lewis Hine in 1912, on the sentimental, sweet and sharply addictive Shorpy: the 100-year-old photo blog. I immediately recognized the balconied building and the small, much older gabled house at the corner at left, which remain today on Elizabeth Street at Houston. I went and took the update just yesterday.
I love the ragged density of the 95 year old image. The balcony (which is really a fire escape) serves as repository for all manner of domestic detritus: barrels, a child's rocking chair, a bird cage, and a cascade of laundry. The scene is chaotic and, paradoxically, alive. That little gabled building at the corner has been the restaurant Cafe Colonial now for several years. I've had several glasses of wine there... The tall corner tenement at extreme left mystified me for several moments. Then I realized that the entire block is no longer-- that is the middle of Houston Street.
In a successful ploy to avoid doing work, I've spent time coloring in part of the image. I've been considering how to best experiment with this: How do antique streetscapes, in all their foreignness, change once the sepia is turned into a more recognizable approximation of reality. How much more "accessible"can they become?