#139 Talking to photographs

Dear Photograph, This house will fill the two of you with joy and memories because Aunt Grace and Uncle Dewey live here.. Cathryn

I’d love to take this photograph back to Harrison Street in Twin Falls, Idaho. I don’t even know if the house is still there. When the photograph was taken, my aunt and uncle were undertaking a major building project. In the decades that followed, they filled every corner with love. I look at the photograph and overflow with memories.

That’s what’s behind a very clever blog started by 22-year-old Taylor Jones of Kitchener, Ontario. Take a photograph back to the spot where it was taken. Shoot a new photograph, with the old one superimposed. The idea is a winner.  When the Toronto Star reported on Dear Photograph on July 8th, the blog had already attracted more than 3.5 million views in two months.

What gives me hope about this project is the touching and funny responses. People who send in photographs address their remarks to the photograph rather than the people in it.

Each photograph is a small glimpse into someone’s life. In one photograph a father pushes a pram, something most fathers didn’t do when the photo was taken. Under a shot of a father kneeling, with an infant son on his knee is this message: “Dear Photograph, I hope I’ve made my dad proud. Ryan”  In another, a little girl snuggles with a thin-faced man with no hair. The caption: “Dear Photograph, Her love was my chemo. I beat cancer. Eric Richter”

The Globe and Mail calls the entries “a cathedral of nostalgia”, and so they are. They will inspire you to look at your own old photographs in new ways.

Follow along on Facebook, Scoop.it and Twitter, and be prepared for a trip down memory lane as photograph after photograph nudges stories out of your mental vault. Jones has a book deal now and will no doubt produce a best seller. But the real success of Dear Photograph is in the snippets of shared humanity elicited by a young man with a quirky idea that’s gone viral.

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