Picture gallery: Norwich Blitz Ghost photos are an internet hit
15:30 01 March 2011
Modern-day shoppers walk past tin-hatted 1940s firemen damping down a smouldering building, a woman crosses the road oblivious to the pile of rubble just behind her and a line of parked cars seem to have escaped a major ex-plosion across the street without even a scratch.
A series of startling and eerie images blending the devastation of the Norwich Blitz with modern-day street scenes are proving an internet sensation, attracting thousands of hits and worldwide interest.
The “Blitz Ghost” pictures are the work of keen amateur photographer and history enthusiast Nick Stone, who used computer software to merge the work of wartime photographers with his own pictures.
Mr Stone, a graphic designer, has now created 45 “mash-up” photos, showing how life has returned to normal in city streets once devastated by German bombs and rockets.
Bombs fell in Norwich between 1940 and 1943, killing a total of 340 people and injuring 1,092. The heaviest casualties took place on the nights of April 27 and 29, 1942, during the so-called Baedeker Raids, ordered in retaliation for RAF raids on German cities.
Mr Stone, 45, who lives in the North City area of Norwich, has spent many hours on the project, inspired by the work of Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov, who merged wartime shots of cities including Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Leningrad with contemporary photographs.
The Norwich pictures show locations all over the city, from residential streets including Caernarvon Road and Patteson Road to major thoroughfares such as Rampant Horse Street and St Stephen’s and major arterial routes, including Aylsham Road.
For the project, Mr Stone, a father-of-four, drew on the work of photographers George Swain, George Plunkett, Cliff Temple and unnamed photographers for the EDP and Evening News.
“They deserve a lot of credit for being there and taking the originals. There are a great many local photographers following in the footsteps of Swain and Plunkett and their ilk, recording the city as it is now,” he said.
Taking copies of the 1940s pictures with him, Mr Stone sets about finding the exact spot they were taken from and then takes new ones using his own Canon EOS 50D camera.
“Some are easier than others. Some you have to actively research because the street has changed so dramatically and it’s very difficult to get a fix - there’s not much to latch on to,” he said.
Then, back at home, he uses picture-editing package Photoshop to merge the images together, with stunning results.
Mr Stone, who was born in London but grew up in North Walsham, has lived in Norwich ever since he studied at college in the city. His project grew from his interest in wartime history and of photographing Blitz sites.
“The war has always fascinated me. I had a family who were in it: my dad was in the RAF. I’ve got an obsessive interest in both world wars,” he said.
“In my pictures I’m pulling the past into the present, really. It’s making something more understandable and show-ing it in a modern context. I’m a real fan of Sergey Larenkov and it was a question of working out what does and copying it.”
Mr Stone’s favourite pictures are the ones featuring modern-day people, oblivious to the presence of the 1940s “ghosts” and the damage wrought on the very streets they are now treading.
His pictures have attracted an estimated 25,000 views so far on photo-sharing site Flickr and have been widely circulated via Facebook and Twitter.
“It’s nice to do something that’s being appreciated and that people want more of. There are clues all over the place as to what happened; all I’m doing is making them more visible,” he said.
And he plans to continue for the time being, at least. “I will keep going until it feels right to stop or I run out of pictures,” he said.
Mr Stone hopes to hold an exhibition of his work to commemorate next year’s 70th anniversary of the Norwich Blitz, and would ultimately like to publish his pictures in a book.
In the mean time, he would like to hear from anyone else who has any other pictures of wartime Norwich he could use. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
<t> Some of Mr Stone’s pictures will be on display at a talk on the bombing of Norwich during the second world war, entitled “Norwich: Bombs, Blitz and Baedeker”, at 2pm on Wednesday, April 6 at 2pm and 7pm on Thursday, April 7 in the council chamber at City Hall. Admission is
£5 per person or £3 with a Go 4less card.