FILMography’s Christopher Moloney matches iconic movie scenes with present-day locations
New York City-based writer and photographer Christopher Moloney has an eye for mixing the old with the new. His Tumblr, FILMography, offers a scroll of photos matching iconic film scenes with their present-day locations. The contrasts — and the similarities — offer a fascinating look at the changing (and not-so-changing) landscape of the city.
The Canadian-born Moloney prints still images from classic movies, then travels to the exact filming location to align the film still against the real-life backdrop of the location. After matching the picture and location line for line, he snaps a photo of his hand holding the picture, creating one seamless image that blends the past with the present.
He has done over 500 photos in 10 different cities around the world, and his work is featured in homes and galleries across the globe.
How did the idea of this project come about? Were you watching a movie one day and realized you pass by the exact area every day?
I live on the east side of the city and work on the west side, so I walk through Central Park almost every day. One day, I realized a building just outside the park was in “Ghostbusters” — the scene where the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man appears. So, I printed off a shot from the movie, held it up and snapped a photo. Since then, I’ve done more than 500 photos.
What inspires you to continue with the project?
When I started out, I was trying to pick “classic” scenes from movies. However, as I did more, I realized it’s important to choose the best images to recreate. Can I “complete” cracks in the wall, tiles on the floor or windows?
How do you approach each photo?
Sometimes I’ll see a location in a movie that I recognize and print off a shot to recreate. Other times, I’ll be walking past a spot in the city and think, “This looks familiar.” I’ve never used Google Maps to check on a spot. I just go there.
What were some of your favorites films to match?
I’m a big fan of “Doctor Who,” so doing those shots is always exciting. I also love going to other cities and tracking down spots. I’ve done a bunch in Toronto, where I’m from, and a whole series in Italy, where I was the featured artist at the Ischia Film Festival.
Have there been a few times when you’ve had a great idea but then find out the original location has completely changed?
It happens a lot, particularly with newer movies. In the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, films were set in famous New York City sites: Bethesda Fountain, Federal Hall, etc. But more recent films tend to shoot in cafes and bookstores that don’t usually last long enough for me to visit with a printout.
Do any of the films mean something special to you, or are you interested in seeing if you can find a match?
The ones that entertain me the most are the shots that shouldn’t match. I did a “Futurama” in Central Park, a “Planet of the Apes” in Grand Central Terminal and a “Family Guy” in Rome. They were all animations or recreations and yet they lined up perfectly. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that animators and set designers use photos of locations as their examples, but it’s still exciting to see them work.
Aside from showing how some places still retain a particular charm, what is the message you want to convey to followers of your work?
I just really want to celebrate films and the cities where they’re shot. I love New York and I get a kick out of the idea that every day people are passing important film landmarks without even realizing it. If my photos can get people to slow down and enjoy the city a little more, I’m happy.
You’ve done exhibitions about this project. How have people responded? Do you get many requests?
I’ve been very lucky. Photographers and filmmakers have sent me a lot of nice messages. Belvedere Vodka hosted an exhibition of my work at the Cannes Film Festival. Grolsch hosted a show of my photos at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I was the featured artist at the Ischia Film Festival. That last one was kind of surreal because my photos were on display in a castle on an island in Italy. I was recreating shots of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cleopatra” by lining them up with the castle where my work was on display.
We could see this being an awesome coffee table book. Do you see yourself ever creating one?
I’ve been offered a few book deals in the past year but they never seemed quite right. At the moment my shots are for sale on my site [just 10 of each] and I like that better because I get to interact with the film fans who are buying them.
What’s on tap? What are the film scenes you would like to match in the future?
There are so many to choose from. I’ve been invited to shoot photos in Prague, London and Rio de Janeiro. And I really haven’t explored New York City as much as I should. The great thing is I’ll be able to do these photos for as long as they keep making movies.