Arts, Culture & Media

This D-Day photography project revisits Normandy showing sites then and now

Getty Images created a new photography project called "D-Day: Then and Now" to commemorate the 70th anniversary of WWII's D-Day.

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The Allied invasion took place on June 6, 1944. The mission, 'Operation Overlord,' was the largest amphibious invasion in military history. More than 150,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of France.

Photographer Peter Macdiarmid says he walked in the "footsteps of history" to take modern day photos that match exactly the locations of archive images taken before, during or after the D-Day landings in 1944.

Macdiarmid says his team at Getty Images decided to do the historic matchup with some of the archived collections of images taken from the last century, "so you see what it looked like in 1944 for instance with this material, and then you click on the image to see it change to exactly how it looks in 2014. It really is a way of allowing viewers to interact with history." 

The composite photos let users "move through time by tapping or clicking on the historic image to reveal the modern perspective.”

To track down the exact locations, Macdiarmid  got a little modern technological help in the form of Google Street View.

"I went through all the images and looked for reference points in the original archive images in 1944 that may still be there, buildings, bridges and then using Street View on my laptop, I  was able to see if it was worth a visit. Then I took a trip to Normandy."

Macdiarmid says his modern shot of Omaha Beach where the Allied forces came ashore 70 years ago was taken within a half mile of the historic wide shot showing lots of landing craft, ships and barrage balloons. Others in the series, he says, were "spot on" taken within a few hundred yards of where WWII soldiers took the originals. 

Often the contast between then and now is profound. "There are historic images of British marines coming ashore on Gold Beach on the June 6, 1944 and the 2014 picture (taken from the same exact location) is literally just sand and a wave."

Macdiarmid says he has reflected on what it means to walk in the footsteps of the WWII photographers.

"I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to work in such dangerous conditions," he says. "Some of images were taken by soldiers ... I wouldn't want to experience what some of those photographers went through 70 years ago ... I'm not sure I could function with all that fear."

As Macdiarmid shot the modern photos to match up with the archival images, he says it was "fascinating to be standing sometimes within a couple of meters of a soldier with a camera 70 years ago. Someone doing the exact same thing as me. And at times it was very moving and quite haunting as well."