Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Mission Street Project

Unless you live here, you probably wouldn't know that our beloved little town, South Pasadena California, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. In honor of the town's B-day, the Preservation Foundation is burying a time capsule filled with memorabilia to be opened at the 200th anniversary in 2088. I've begun a project to add to the capsule; I'm creating a 40-block panorama of Mission Street (north and south) and Fair Oaks Ave (east and west).

The specific technique is all my own, littered with Escher-esque impossible angles and half-dissolved autos. It's become a Pleasantville of a sort – not terribly artificial, but sweetened. The sky is gorgeous blue and people on the streets frequently appear in multiple places simultaneously. I call the compositions J.T. Burke-O-ramas.

This isn't a small project. The photography is the easy part; I walk in the parking lane and shoot across the street, one side at a time. I walk quickly and snap lots of overlapping images. Compositing in the studio is more time-consuming. I assemble each block one at a time, about one every two hours. I strip in a blue sky and mend the roadway. I emphasize our beautiful trees and try not to lose the street signs. I take special care with the storefronts.

What the pictures lack in accuracy they make up in sincerity; any South Pas resident will instantly recognize most panels as everyday views of our little town. And though it's a little tedious, working on this project has become a guilty pleasure. As of today I've completed 19 of the 40 blocks. I'll be sad (but relieved) when it's complete. The time capsule goes into the ground end of June.

Watch the work in progress at