What better way to appreciate the history of Colorado Springs than by viewing historic photos paired along with current day “replications”?
About five years ago, photographer Michael Pach, owner of 3 Peaks Photography & Design, approached Matt Mayberry, director of Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum to plant a seed for his “Then and Now Historic Photos” project — something he envisioned could be part of the celebration of the city’s upcoming sesquicentennial.
Pach’s idea was to showcase how far the city of Colorado Springs has come in its 150 years by focusing on creatively replicating or reflecting historic photos, not duplicating them. Mayberry loved the idea to connect original photos from archived photos from CSPM, the Pikes Peak Library District and other repositories with Pach’s companion photos.
The resulting project, which reflects Pach’s personal touch and perspective as well as the diversity of Colorado Springs, compiles 50 photos that are inspired by and matched with original photos from days gone by.
Although his original plan was to photograph buildings, Pach quickly discovered that the historic photos he found most compelling incorporated people, events and stories.
“All the people in the photos are doing something great in support of our community, even the dogs. They are part of the history in the photo,” he said.
Pach’s project has the backing of Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers’ office, and was recognized in January with an official proclamation by the Colorado Springs City Council.
Starting July 8, Pach’s “Then and Now” project will be displayed for two months at Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Drive, as an official part of the COS@150 celebration. The photos will then be exhibited at various locations throughout Colorado Springs for 6-12 months.
The Then and Now Project will be paired with Pach’s book: “Colorado Springs Then and Now — Celebrating 150 Years.” His book contains 75 pairs of photos, including the 50 highlighted in the upcoming sesquicentennial exhibit. Detailed explanations accompany each set of photos, providing an enlightening historical perspective.
Pach became passionate about photography as a teenager during a backpacking trip to Colorado. He was influenced by his father, who always had a camera in hand. Pach found that taking photographs helped manage his anxiety and depression. “Photography is a form of meditation and a way to be mindful. The stronger your connection is with your subject, the better your photos are,” he said.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, Pach worked for many years at McDonnell Douglas/Boeing. His eventual layoff led to a new career in nature photography. Pach also became a staff writer and photographer for the Fort Carson Mountaineer newspaper, where he found his favorite assignments involved interacting with people. This led to teaching basic photography classes to soldiers and their families on post.
The next step was the opening his business, 3 Peaks Photography & Design, where he teaches classes and conducts workshops. Pach says anyone can be taught how to use a camera. He takes his lessons to a different level by encouraging his students to focus on what they are doing in the moment by staying involved in the experience and noticing what is happening.
Pach found the biggest challenge to shooting the photos for the “Then and Now” project involved coordinating people and places. Sometimes he had to go to sites four or five times for reconnaissance.
The personal and professional connections he has made while completing the project have proven to be invaluable. The first photo for the project required getting special permission from CSPM to climb up into the museum tower for the perfect shot of the former Alamo Hotel.
Pach’s favorite photo that is still in process is a replication of inventor Nicola Tesla in his lab as lightning bolts (captured on film on Tesla Hill) erupt around his head.
The most difficult shoot: taking a group photo of the AdAmAn Club on the Pikes Peak summit while ringing in 2020. A combination of altitude, lack of sleep, a 12-hour wait for the shot, temperatures in single digits and 25 mph winds proved to be extremely taxing and challenging, Pach said.
Pach sums up his positive experience creating the project: “I have been so pleased and grateful with the support I have been given for the project by people appearing in my photos, people who work for the city, and organizations giving me access to specific locales.”