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About the rePhotoSA Project

Repeat photography has a long history as a tool for documenting changing landscapes. From the ever expanding and evolving urban environment to dramatic shrinking of remote glaciers, it gives us a unique long-term perspective on how our world is changing around us. Repeat photography is powerful because it taps into the distinctively human characteristic that to really appreciate change, we need to see it. Seeing is believing!

South Africa is fortunate in have a long history of landscape photography. The early botanists, such as IB Pole Evans and John Acocks, amongst many others in the South African Government's Botanical Survey division were particularly prolific. There are literally thousands of historical landscape photographs available from the early and mid-20th century.

Through generous contributions made by various individuals and organisations the Plant Conservation Unit has digitised over 20 000 of these original photographs in what is likely to be the largest collection of historical landscape photographs in southern Africa. With the help of students and colleagues over 1 600 historical photographs have been repeated and subsequently used in deepening our knowledge on issues such as the rate of alien vegetation invasions, bush encroachment and biome shifts, changing stocking rates and land-use practices, the effects of post-fire vegetation recovery, growth rates and long-term survival of key threatened plant species.

Despite the good start made by a small team of researchers, we need YOUR help if we are ever going to come close to repeating even half the photographs currently in the collection. rePhotoSA is designed to allow you to easily access and download historical photographs and the information you will need to find and repeat them. After you've taking a successful repeat, it's just as easy to upload your matched photograph and associated metadata so that others can see what you've done.

As they say, 'many hands make light work…' so the repeat photographs that you take will help grow the collection more rapidly and be a valuable contribution towards understanding how our magnificent landscapes are changing and help in their future management and conservation.

Please click here to see examples of matched repeat photographs from rePhotoSA. The photographs demonstrate a variety of landscape changes across southern Africa, including clearing of invasive species, pine plantation expansion, bush encroachment and expansion of human settlement (see description above each image). All of the repeat photographs were taken by citizen scientists and uploaded to the rePhotoSA website.

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