West Linn residents create past and present centennial photo project

by:  VERN UYETAKE  - Photographer Kendra Frankle and photo restorationist John Klatt create past and present images of West Linn with the centennial photo project.A West Linn photographer and a photograph restorationist are shedding light on industry, ecology and culture in a centennial photo project.

John Klatt, owner of Old Oregon, The Art of Historic Photos, has collected and restored historical photographs of West Linn and its earliest settlers. Seventh-grade photographer Kendra Frankle used those images and took modern-day photographs of the exact site or object. The result is an outstanding then and now comparison of West Linn’s development through the years.

The idea was inspired by photo projects in other communities. Elissa Preston, management analyst for the city of West Linn, presented the idea to Klatt and Frankle, and the project came to fruition in November.

by: OLD OREGON PHOTOS - 'Two Cultures at Willamette Falls' by photographer Isaac G. Davidson, circa 1880. Note the Native American fisherman on the far KENDRA FRANKLE - Modern-day image of Willamette Falls.

The goal of the project is to highlight the beauty and history of West Linn during its centennial celebrations. The photos will be used with the relaunch of the city’s website,, during centennial celebration activities and hung as art in city hall and other city buildings.

History captured

Klatt said the concept of then and now photography has become popular in the last 30 years. The self-proclaimed history buff became interested in historic photographs about eight years ago while writing local history articles for The Oregonian.

“I wanted to have photos to illustrate my articles and then the photos pulled me in,” Klatt said.

He founded his business,, four years ago. His website boasts about 1,000 historical photographs from his own collection and private collectors. The images he provided for the centennial photo project came from local families and the Clackamas County Historical Society.

“I don’t consider myself a photographer but I acquire, select, restore, print and frame photos,” he said. “I enjoy the restoration process, which is good because it’s tedious.”

Klatt begins the restoration process with either negatives or prints. He uses a high-resolution scanner and software to fix scratches, stains and tears in the images. He also adjusts fades and color contrasts that may have changed over time.

“I’m trying to honor the work of the original photographer and, to the best of my imagination, restore it to what it looked like 100 years ago,” he said. “It feels good to take something that is pretty beat up or faded and bring it back to life.”

Klatt became interested in historic West Linn photos long before the project came to be. For the past 10 years he’s sought, to no avail, postcards of West Linn businesses.

“It’s hard to find photos of West Linn,” he said. “The city kind of got left out.”

by: OLD OREGON PHOTOS - 'Willamette Methodist Church Dedication Day' by an unknown photographer circa Sept. 12, KENDRA FRANKLE - Modern photograph of Willamette Methodist Church in West Linn.

Despite the challenge, he’s restored about 20 photographs for the centennial photo project. He hopes the photos will serve as a piece of art and provide the community with a glimpse into what it felt like to live in West Linn 100 years ago.

“I think the past informs the future, and if you don’t know where you came from it’s hard to decide where you want to go,” he said. “Twenty years ago, when I first moved to West Linn, there were a lot of people that really didn’t understand that the city has a history. I think that is gradually changing.”

History revisited

Frankle won a photography contest sponsored by the city of West Linn when she was 9 years old.

She’s been behind a camera ever since.

“I got my first camera in fourth grade and I recently got a Nikon D3100. I’ve been saving up,” she said.

Frankle has photographed the annual tree lighting ceremony, the lighting of Maddax Woods and more.

Occasionally, the city posts her photographs on its website and in weekly email newsletters.

The active seventh-grader at Rosemont Ridge Middle School also plays basketball and is a black belt in Krav Maga. Frankle’s family, in particular her aunt who is a professional photographer, has encouraged her photography hobby.

“I photograph nature mostly,” she said. “I’ll go out for a few hours and take different pictures of the same angle.”

The hobby may flourish into something more. Frankle said her dream job would be to shoot for National Geographic and she has already made a list of places — Ireland, Brazil and Africa — she would like to visit and photograph. Needless to say, she didn’t turn down the offer when asked to participate in the by: OLD OREGON PHOTOS/CLACKAMAS COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY - 'Early West Linn area from Oregon City bluffs' by an unknown photographer, circa 1895.
by: KENDRA FRANKLE - A view overlooking the recently opened Oregon City-West Linn Arch Bridge.centennial photo project.

“I was really excited,” she said. “I like replicating the old photos and seeing how different everything is. ... I didn’t know 100 years ago this was all trees.”

Before shooting, Frankle met with Klatt in November to learn about each photo’s history and discuss which photos to replicate. She began shooting — with research help, not to mention car rides from her father — in December.

Frankle studied each location, carried the historical photographs for reference and sought just the right angles to replicate as close to the original shot as possible. Some photos were more challenging than others. Some photos were impeded by backyards and bushes.

“It was challenging in December because it was raining so much ... and I tend to move a lot. I always have to concentrate on keeping myself still,” she said.

So far she’s taken upwards of 400 photos. Images from each shoot turned out a little blurry in the beginning but grew sharper over time. She prefers to leave her photographs unaltered.

“I don’t use Photoshop,” she said. “I will crop the image sometimes but I think people use Photoshop too much and it ruins the original picture.”

So far, she has completed five historic replications and plans to complete five more in February.

The centennial photo project has not only helped Frankle hone her craft, but also has reinforced why she loves photography.

“There are so many beautiful things that people don’t stop and pay attention to,” she said. “I like to show that.”

by: OLD OREGON PHOTOS - 'Building the Bolton Reservoir' by photographer S. P. Davis, circa KENDRA FRANKLE - The Bolton Reservoir.

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