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Back to Back to the Future

Irina Werning's original photo series "BACK TO THE FUTURE" went viral earlier this year, and why shouldn't it? Who else had the brilliant idea of recreating strangers' childhood photos?

by Ellis Jones
Nov 3 2011, 8:25pm

Johannes 1994 & 2011 Hambourg

Irina Werning’s original photo series BACK TO THE FUTURE went viral earlier this year, and why shouldn’t it? Who else had the brilliant idea of recreating strangers’ childhood photos? We loved the series, and thankfully Irina is sticking with it. She just released the second part online, so we bothered her with a few questions about it.

VICE: For anyone who isn’t familiar with your series, how did you come up with this idea?
Irina Werning:
I was scanning old pictures for a friend, and afterward I happened to walk past a building that was in one of those pictures. So I was standing there and imagined recreating it.

Andy 1964 & 2011 Los Angeles

Your first series went huge online. Is that what prompted you to do the second series? Or had that always been the plan?
I’ll do this until it bores me.

Where do you plan on going for the next series?
I shot 150 BACK TO THE FUTURE pictures in one and a half years. Now I’m off to do it in India. Next year: Russia, Iceland, Beirut, Istanbul, Cairo…

Alexandra 1970 & 2011 Paris

Not a bad job. And what countries did you visit for this second series?
USA, UK, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, and Germany.

Fer 1981 & 2011 Buenos Aires

Christoph 1990 & 2011 Berlin Wall

Which picture from the new set is your favorite?
The one of Fer and the one of Christoph in front of the Berlin Wall, because of the history behind it.

Yeah, I loved that one. Something I’m curious about is how you go about picking the old picture you’ll actually use. Do you have a certain criteria for it?
No, I just pick the image I fall in love with.

Violeta 1981 & 2011 Buenos Aires

I'd guess that a lot of people don’t realize that in some cases you actually go out and make new clothes that resemble the clothing in the original photo. Is sewing something you always knew how to do or did you pick it up once you began this project?
I’ve learned so many things from doing this project: sewing, drawing, using any and every material around me, buying things online, the history of fashion, that the sun rises east, the anatomy of the face, how our body changes, and to always carry double-sided, masking, and measuring tape in my bag.

The Zurbanos 1999 & 2011, Buenos Aires

Which was the hardest photo to recreate?
The Zurbanos! I was terrified that the father would get squashed underneath all of his sons…

Ellis 1988 & 2011 Tampa, FL/New York City

I guess I should mention that you shot me for the second series, too. It was a funny experience. We were at Central Park and I had to have my glasses off most of the time so I couldn’t see anything… I just remember so many random, blurry people stopping and staring at me as I tried to kneel on top of a bunch of sticks behind a fence (that I wasn’t supposed to be behind) while dressed up as a genie (not on Halloween). But thanks. My mom will be thrilled.

Check out the rest of Irina’s series here.

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