Tank shines new light on history of Menomonie

Mary Peters-

Retired University of WisconsinStout journalism professor, David Tank, has long stunned Dunn County with his photography skills. On Dec. 3, Tank gave the community an inside look into the making of his published works. “Postcards from the Past: Then and Now Pictures of Dunn County,” “Postcards from the Past: Then and Now Pictures of Menomonie,” and his most recent, “Postcards from the Past: Then and Now Pictures of Eau Claire” have become favorites of those familiar with the area and Tank’s work.

From new residents to students to the deep-rooted community, all pictures in these books provide a special form of entertainment. Tank takes a picture from a historical postcard, goes to the exact location and replicates the photograph. It enlightens those new to the area, and is reminiscent for those who have been around for some time.

Tank started this project out of his own personal interest. His real interest is 3-D photography, for which he has created a full studio. He started his historical photography with one postcard of a street in Menomonie when he wondered where that street was located. He duplicated the photograph and simply continued this process. People began to recognize the photographs and commended him for his work. After about three years, he compiled all these replications into a book! Tank then expanded his project to create a similar book for all of Dunn County, and this past summer created another based on postcards of Eau Claire.

Looking at the pictures, it is apparent how much thought went into them. When Tank was asked what he felt were some of the most ostensive challenges while completing these projects, he mentioned the details. He recognized how difficult it was to replicate detail, such as getting cars to line up with the historical photograph, capturing shots in the middle of the streets of downtown, as well as having to make multiple trips to ensure precise match up of where the photograph was previously taken. He was most surprised at how many more trees there are now versus in the past; this came to be a challenge because sometimes the focal point of the photograph was blocked by leaves. Tank’s favorite part of the entire experience is the chance to listen to people remember stories of their past that they most likely would not have remembered had they not seen the old photograph.

Tank’s biggest hope is to turn this into a legacy. He would genuinely enjoy seeing someone do this again in 50 years, and again 50 years after that. This way, long-standing residents can continue remembering, and newcomers can appreciate the history of this land.

To see more of David Tank’s work, visit his website.