Time Travel in China: Photos Reveal A Century of Dramatic Growth

Few nations have experienced quite the explosive rate of growth over the last century as China, and a new photo series shows us just how dramatic those changes actually look on the ground. Photographer, computer scientist and MIT alum Dheera Venkatraman pored through books and archives to find images taken in the 20th century and then went out and re-took them, shot by shot, attempting to frame them exactly as they were originally photographed. All of the new imagery has been converted to black and white to highlight what’s different and what has managed to survive after decades of frantic industrialization.

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The result is a series called Time Travel in China, creating pairs of images that Venkatraman likens to a ‘spot-the-difference’ game. Agricultural fields become towns, skyscrapers shoot up into the air, bridges stretch across waterways, dirt roads are paved, infrastructure becomes more complex.

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Yet not only do the contours of the land and the silhouettes of the mountains remain the same, a surprising number of buildings do, too, especially temples and historical structures. In some cases, the only notable shifts in a forty- or even eighty-year period are the vehicles, some lights and a handful of modern towers.

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“When most people travel, they think of traveling in space,” she says. “Whether it’s hiking through a national park or learning about a distant culture, it’s usually about the destination. This time, I decided to travel in time.”

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“It wasn’t always easy to get that perfect angle match,” she continues in a post on PetaPixel. “In some places, the vantage point ended up being in a private location, and in some cases there was a large obstruction or building preventing me from getting the same view. But nonetheless, I managed to capture several shocking contrasts over the past century of Chinese history.”