Repeat Photography: Pairing Past Images with Present Ones

Long lives yield many treasures:  pictures, keepsakes, property, or savings, the standard currencies of inheritance passed on from generation to generation.  But there is another precious legacy, one that is often lost:  memories, the closely held images of people, places, and things that are the blueprint of a life.  In To Our Children’s Children best-selling author and nationally syndicated columnist Bob Greene and his sister, journalist D. G. Fulford, have created an attractive and engaging guidebook that makes recording a personal history as uncomplicated and easy as writing a letter.

A life goal:  write my memoirs using the outline presented in To Our Children’s Children.

A short term goal to reach this life goal:  continue writing blog posts, using each weekly post as a learning experience on the writing curve.

There are days when creativity and inspiration ooze from the deep recesses of my mind, coursing through the fingertips and squeezing thoughts into words onto the waiting keyboard.  Eventually, some semblance of meaningful words and phrases fill the blank computer screen, and the bombarding words flow out from within.   No writer’s block here, only a writer’s dream come true, no doubt.

The stacks of sticky note hen scratches and scratch paper scribbles to the left of my keyboard also jostle for my attention.  These scrawled flashes of inspiration eventually weaved between prepositional phrases and verbs.  All in an attempt to convey meaning and insight to the reader.

Over the past twenty years, many family treasures have been entrusted to me; in particular, old photographs and a few vintage postcards.  As family historian, this privilege—and responsibility—taken seriously.  In an attempt to cautiously approach my life goal with this post of repeat photography, I have chosen to publish seven historical postcards from Monticello, Jones County, Iowa.  Several of my maternal ancestors emigrated from Wiesede, Ostfriesland, Germany to Jones County, Iowa in the late 1800’s.  These 1930’s penny postcards were sent to my maternal grandmother after migrating to southeast Nebraska, and eventually the cherished possessions handed down to me.

Even though any remembrance of my maternal grandmother is nonexistent, these closely held printed images have revealed a brief moment in her young adult life.   Whether she ever returned to the northwest Iowa farm country is unknown, but the changes that were captured in my 2001 visit to the area would have astonished the immigrant from Germany’s North Sea area.

Repeat photography is a technique in which historical and modern photographs are compared and contrasted.  This efficient, effective, and useful pairing of the past and present has been used to study changes in the landscape since the late 19th century, beginning as a way to document European glacial retreating.  A valuable tool I’ve grown to appreciate over the years, particularly with family photographs.

Journey now through time—1930’s-2001—and explore cultural and natural history through a few closely held images of a place called Monticello, Jones County, Iowa.

Kirkwood Community College

 (2001 photograph unavailable)
(2001 photograph unavailable; creamery no longer in existence) 

Now ten years post the 2001 images, I’m sure the cultural and natural history of this small northwest Iowa farm town changed even more.  Feel free to email me at if you would like to acquire or share a copy of any of these Iowa vintage postcards.

Note: the Monticello, Jones County, Iowa postcards were also published in the July 2007 issue of the American-Ostfriesen Zeitung.

For further Jones County research, visit the Iowa GenWeb Project website at:

For fun visit (Penny Postcards)


About corinthrose

Born again Christian, helpmate of 42 years, domestic engineer of two children, GRANDmother of six darlings, professional volunteer, fanatic photographer, and a wanna be writer. Occasionally, infatuated with family history, flower photography, and traveling with my hiking buddy.
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4 Responses to Repeat Photography: Pairing Past Images with Present Ones

  1. I love the photos from days gone by. And sometimes it’s amazing to see how something don’t change.

  2. some things don’t change. (sorry for the typo)

  3. Sheryl says:

    I really enjoyed the pairing of the old and new photos. It’s fun to see how the buildings changed (and didn’t change) over the years.

  4. alwayzhis says:

    I have several old photos myself..and this is a very interesting concept. TY for the post.
    As always be blessed and have a weekend filled with Him above all things!

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