Yesterday’s Tomorrow – A Portland Journey

Produced 2015 by Uncage the Soul Productions
Powered by The Oregonian and OregonLive
In association with TEDx Portland and 503
Aerials Provided by Aerial Technology International

Original Music Composition by Peter Bosack
Visual Effects Artist Chloie Medeiros

In “Yesterday’s Tomorrow,” we brought our cameras to the same position and angles of our favorite Portland historic images. We wondered, what’s changed? What’s remained the same? This ‘new’ Portland that is captivating national attention- how new is it really?

We’ve seen books and blogs using the “Then and Now” treatment to show side by side the historic and present via photos. But in our curiosity and research, we could not find many or any examples of this comparison being done with motion video. Thinking about it more, we got excited to use timelapse and slow motion to bend and warp present time while exploring past time. The idea was sparked. The project started. Research into what old photos existed began.

Sifting and searching through thousands of archived images was incredibly fun and daunting. Just the act of looking through stacks and folders of old photos became a meandering tutor of Portland history. Afternoons in the Oregon Historical Society library downtown became a weekly field trip we looked forward to. Wearing white gloves, we are allowed to explore and look through their incredible archives. We’ve come to love the process of being given a folder of loose images, walking it to the table to open, and then discovering new pieces of our city’s history photo by photo. It was common to realize we’d be holding our breath in anticipation while going through the folder. Our partner in this project, The Oregonian, sent a hard drive of 1500 hi-res images the photo editor had painstakingly culled and pulled from their historic library of images. Finally, a few trips to the Portland City Archives rounded out our research bringing new photos we had not seen in either of the other collections. In all, we literally saw and sorted through over over 5000 black and white photos in the process, and… there are thousands and thousands more we didn’t have the time to see. We would love to spend an afternoon every week for an entire year just looking through these archives.

We thought finding the photos would be the hard part- wow, we were wrong. This project has had many challenges, but probably the biggest has been each of us on our team being willing to let go of our individual favorite images that didn’t make the final cut. Choosing the 50 or so final shots out of 5000 options has led to quite a few heated debates and conversations in our office the last few months. Each of us has found connection and attachment to a specific few of these frozen slivers of time. I wonder what the photographer or subject of the photograph would think if they knew that particular moment they were living while the image was being shot would be argued and debated about in a SE video office over a hundred years later.

We knew this piece needed a soul, some heart, but not via the traditional history timeline narrative. But what is the story, the words? For inspiration, guidance and insight- we interviewed multiple 90+ Portlanders and spent an evening with each asking all the questions we could about their lives and opinions on a big list of life issues. Our favorite of these amazing people is Katherine Livingston. Her eyes are bright, her wits are sharp, she was born in Portland, her grandfather was involved in commissioning the Skidmore Fountain, she recently held the world record for fastest 2000 meters on a stationary rowing machine for the 95-100 yr old bracket, and this weekend she turns 100 years old. The length of that last sentence should be an indicator of how impactful she was to us. We were honored to sit down and listen to her share her story and insights of living for 100 years. These sentiments became the words that guide the piece.