How did Vintage Aerial come about and where did you get this fascinating archive of 25 million photos?
I have been in the aerial photography business for the past 33 years. My family business has been photographing rural America since 1962. This “cottage industry” was built upon the premise of flying and photographing counties on speculation to help homesteads preserve their family histories. Then we sent door to door sales people to the homes and farms to show these photos. In our prime we had 200 salespeople and 16 airplanes.
In 2007 we had a dream of digitizing and archiving our 16,000,000 photo’s so all who have had an attachment to rural America could research and locate their family homesteads and share those memories. Vintage Aerial was born out of this idea. In May of 2007 I met Paul Clark and Kevin Marsh. Kevin and Paul had the business and technology skills necessary to embark on this journey. Since then we have assembled a world class team. Vintage Aerial has acquired another 9 million images from smaller aerial photography firms. Thus the total 25,000,000.
Genealogists use a variety of records for their research: property records, tax rolls and even house histories. How could an aerial image assist them? What could a researcher find in comparing present day locations with one from 50 years ago?
To put a place in time with an image that represents that moment is priceless. History seems to be a place and time and all of our images will be geo referenced. Drive a stake in the ground where that homestead is located and build your genealogy.
In many cases if you can look into the window of the past you can predict the future. What is really exciting to me is these images have many applications and what will be interesting is when this data is in the hands of professionals such as the folks that read your blog.
Can you tell us how aerial photos are taken? Is there a specific process and has it changed with newer technologies.
Back in the good old days we could fly our 2 seat Cessna at about 500 feet and photograph at a 45 degree angle. The pilot would steer with his feet and hang out of the right side of the aircraft. Today most aerial are taken by satellite straight up and down at a vertical angle. These beauty shots would be very difficult to produce today.
It seems like a photo from Vintage Aerial of a family farm or home would make a great gift. How would someone determine if Vintage Aerial has a photo of their family’s home or farm?
Good question. Over half the framed photos we sell are for gifts. The product is very emotional and unique. How many gifts or products in general can you buy that the minute they show up at the door it becomes a treasured family heirloom?
Determining if we have your photo is very simple. Go to www.vintageaerial.com and put in your contact information and the address of the location you are looking for. That information will trigger one of two actions. If your roll of film has been scanned and the pilots flight path geo referenced a series of photos will show up on your computer for viewing. We have 2 million of the 25,000,000 scanned so the second trigger is more likely. A professional Librarian will take your information do the research and locate your roll of film. The film will be picked, digitalized and uploaded to our site. The Librarian will then e-mail you that the film is ready for viewing. A time will be set and the two of you can view the photos together through our Internet slideshow .
Lately geo-location is all the rage including genealogy. Is geo-location part of the photo selection process with Vintage Aerial’s archive?
I touched on this earlier but without geo-mapping, high speed Internet and writing our own code this whole archive would still be in 35mm rolls of film sitting in a vault. The reason geo-location is so important for us is we do not have names and addresses of the people who use to live there. Once the pilot’s flight paths are geo-located then the computer can place a Google drop where the homestead is or use to be and up comes the photos.
I am not the technology person but I can see a day where these homes of the past are all geo-located. We then take history and layer it further into the past and build on the present. What a starting point with a library of millions of unique locations from the past.
Finally, do you have a favorite aerial photo from either the Vintage Aerial collection or elsewhere?
Wow . . . tough question. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and every image has meaningful stories to those who are connected. With that being said I do not have a favorite and my memory is only good for about a week. That’s why I need historical sites like VA to maintain these memories for me.
The photo above was located a month ago so it fresh on my memory. This farm was in Kane county Illinois outside of Chicago. Look at this barn and how unique it was. The property was torn down in 1968 and today it is an affluent subdivision. What if this photo could talk? What would it say? Let’s make sure these stories are told and these families are not forgotten. Go to Vintage Aerial and share those memories!
Photo courtesy of Vintage Aerial.
©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee