Mapleton Man ‘Explores Utah’ One Photo at a Time

Have you ever walked down the street and asked yourself, “I wonder what this place looked like 30 years ago?” One man asks himself that daily, and then does something about it.

Jacob Barlow of Springville loves history – in particular, cinematic history – and he lives in the perfect place to rediscover it. South Utah county has been the home for seemingly countless films that have frozen many parts of the county in time.

Take the movie, “Footloose” for example. Every single Payson High School attendee since 1983 when the movie was filmed has walked past the lockers that Ren (Kevin Bacon) danced by when teaching his Willard how to dance. The lockers were orange then, and are green now, and we know that because people like Barlow have taken pictures as proof.

In fact, Barlow recently took a picture of the exact hallway at the high school and placed it next to a frame from the film. He has done these very things with scenes from a whole slew of movies. He also said he likes to find old photos not from movies to do the same thing. He posts what he calls, “side-by-sides” on his Facebook page “Exploring Utah.”

But it isn’t just pictures of movie scenes that Barlow takes, but scenery in general. His day job is a real estate agent, and he is always aware of homes and locations, and he said that one day he was looking at some historic markers while out and about, and wanted to see how it had changed over time. He said that he started taking his own pictures, and noticed that even in the short period of time between one photo and the next, things change quickly. He said that he wanted to be able to document that change. 

“It started out with me just getting pictures of the historic markers that you can see around on the side of the highway – just little monuments that talk about what happened there,” he said. “I started to collect the pictures, and over time, I’d notice that the scenery around these things started to change. I started caring about getting pictures of houses and buildings because I started to realize how quickly they go away. I started caring about getting pictures about literally everything because there’s always a reason that someone is going to care about it.”

Barlow’s Facebook group, “Exploring Utah” has over 200K members, and he said that he has had many reach out to him and thank him for immortalizing a photo from a time period that was important to them.

“I’ll go to the cemetery and look for interesting headstones and get pictures of them, and then come back and research who that was and figure out where they lived and go get a picture of the house to match up with it,” he said. “Then I’ll get emails from people thanking me for getting a picture of their grandpa’s house before it was demolished. I didn’t even know that person; I just kind of get on that train and just follow wherever it takes me.” 

Barlow said that he never intended his “hobby” to be of any interest to anyone else, but he’s glad that people find joy in what he does.

“It started out with me just posting all of my stuff here to keep track of it for myself,” he said. “I didn’t expect anybody to join, but people just keep joining.”

To see Barlow’s photos, you can join the Exploring Utah Facebook page or go to his website, jacobbarlow.com.

Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown is a mom of nine who writes columns for many local and national publications. She currently resides in Payson, and enjoys looking for good happenings in her area and sharing them for others to read about. For more of her stories, search "A Mother's Write" on Facebook.

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