Cornell Alumni Magazine – Through a Glass, Darkly

I wanted to share a really interesting article from the Cornell Alumni Magazine — Through a Glass Darkly.

In a series of haunting images, Ithaca’s past and present collide
By Franklin Crawford Photographs by Mark Iwinski

Tuesday, 04 January 2011

In “This Was Now,” an exhibit of images by former Cornell visiting professor Mark Iwinski, the past and present exist side by side. On view last fall at the History Center of Tompkins County—itself housed, appropriately, in a converted Mayflower Moving and Storage building now known as the Gateway Center, at the foot of East State Street—the images feature vintage shots superimposed over modern downtown structures in situ. They contrast the “busy humming of the bustling town” with modern versions of the same sites, few of which compare favorably with the oldies.

The photos—or “re-photos,” as the artist calls them—highlight changes in society reflected through an altered urban landscape, and their effect is both instructive and haunting. For example, it is striking to see the bygone, Victorian-era City Hall superimposed over the existing parking garage and bus stop—or, right across the street, Ezra Cornell’s handsome Free Library atop what is now a drive-through bank and parking lot. The photo of Alonzo Cornell’s former mansion on Seneca Street, once a promenade of lovely Victorian homes, includes vague apparitions of long-dead citizens; in contrast, a modern-day woman crosses the street, shielding her eyes against the morning sun.

The old Ithaca Hotel seen against a modern two-story building.

Iwinski’s approach allows the viewer to see the old Ithaca in all its nineteenth-century splendor, yielding to socioeconomic forces that tore across the country. While they evoke nostalgia, the images also cast a cold eye on the present. Consider that the site of the grand old Strand Theatre, torn down nearly two decades ago, is now just a gravel parking lot.

For the rest of the story, and more images, visit the Cornell Alumni Magazine site.

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