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A View from Mara E. Vatz

One Thousand Years in Pictures

Movie director Sam Raimi, of Spider-Man fame, wants to set up time-lapse photography of American urban centers–for the next thousand years. Cameras centered above U.S. cities would take one picture every day at noon. In 1,000 years, people could watch…

  • June 29, 2004

Movie director Sam Raimi, of Spider-Man fame, wants to set up time-lapse photography of American urban centers–for the next thousand years. Cameras centered above U.S. cities would take one picture every day at noon. In 1,000 years, people could watch the millennium speed by in just over four hours, reminiscent of George Pal’s The Time Machine. “You could watch the city of Los Angeles rise, and maybe an earthquake might come in 300 years or a tidal wave,” Raimi says. “It’s the same idea of all time-lapse photography, but over an outrageous amount of time.”

Outrageous is right. It is totally impractical to think that a photo archive could be maintained for 1,000 years, let alone be usable when it is finished. Nevertheless, with some slight modifications, this is a really neat idea. Instead of documenting the changes of already well-developed urban areas for a millennium, why not put a camera over America’s as-yet undeveloped open space for just one decade? That way people could see, in a three-minute film, just how quickly we are devouring the last of the American “wilderness.” Or, in keeping with Raimi’s urban theme, document a decade’s worth of growth for small- to medium-sized cities. The results might have interesting implications for city planning and urban development. At the very least it would be fun to watch.

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