Household and history motivated this Googler’s picture series

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Passion Projects, a series where we highlight Googler’s unanticipated, remarkable and typically inspiring interests beyond the workplace. In our most current installation, we’re focusing on a recent job Sarah Torney, a Googler from the Chrome Enterprise item marketing team, created during her time safeguarding in the house in San Francisco. Over to Sarah …

I’m a fifth-generation San Franciscan and fourteenth-generation American. Just recently, to fill my time as I shelter in place, I have actually been sifting through old family photos. I found a series of images my great-grandfather took in the days after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. My great-grandfather, Edward “Ned” Johnston Torney Sr., hit the streets with his video camera to record the destruction brought on by fires following the “The Terrific Quake” on April 18,1906 He had the ability to continue aiming for days after, documenting the path of damage caused by the fires.

After sharing my great-grandfather’s photos with close friends throughout a virtual delighted hour, a concept struck me: I chose to recreate a “then and now” picture series, heading out to the same places and street corners my great-grandfather had actually photographed (all while following social distancing guidelines, of course). Not only has San Francisco’s shelter in location emptied the streets of many cars and trucks and people, similar to the effect of the fires, however the timing is also substantial. It’s been 114 years to the month since the 1906 earthquake.

I recreated his images with my video camera of choice, Pixel 3a. It’s fascinating to see the consequences of the 1906 earthquake juxtaposed versus the ghost town that is downtown San Francisco in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis today.

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