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Mike Nowatzki, Published December 17 2009

Video blends Fargo’s past, present

Photographer Dan Francis brings a fresh take to Fargo’s history: In with the old, on top with the new.

By blending old photos of the city’s downtown with his own shots taken from the same vantage points, Francis is able to create a that-was-then, this-is-now feel in a single frame.

He strung about three dozen frames together into a six-minute video slideshow called “Fargo’s Past & Present.”

The video has more than 5,100 views on YouTube, popularized in part by a mention in the blog of Scott Kelby, editor-in-chief of Layers Magazine and Photoshop User magazine and president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.

Francis said it took him about two years to amass the photos for the video and edit them together.

“What really kind of started it was finding old postcards of Fargo,” he said.

Using archived photos from The Forum and North Dakota State University’s Institute for Regional Studies, Francis figured out where the photo was taken and tried to copy it.

In one instance, the technique had him standing on a ladder in the middle of First Avenue on a Sunday morning, snapping photos while watching for traffic.

“It’s a one-way, so it helped a little bit,” he joked.

Francis graduated from West Fargo High School in 2001 and learned graphic design at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. The 27-year-old now runs his own studio, Dan Francis Photography, on Main Avenue in Fargo.

His video features stately buildings, such as the Carnegie Library and Waldorf Hotel, long since lost to fire or the wrecking ball. Scenes of flooding, fires and even a captured Japanese submarine from World War II sitting on Broadway are layered with modern-day photos.

Francis said he hopes the video will be a walk down memory lane for longtime Fargo-Moorhead residents, as well as a reminder of the importance of historic structures.

“Hopefully, we’re a little bit smarter now that we won’t just tear down old buildings,” he said.

The video has been shown at a Taste of Downtown event and during the 10th anniversary of Fargo’s Renaissance Zone.

Downtown Community Partnership President Dave Anderson, who dabbles in similar “ghost imaging” with his own genealogy photos, said Francis is “a creative wonder.”

“You’ve got to hit pause a lot, because you really want to look it over,” he said of the video. “He really does some nice stuff.”

To watch the video, go HERE.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528