Now and then you hear a story that restores your faith in the internet, both as a global sharing tool that can be used as a force for good and as a means by which a moment of serendipity and a good idea can bring fame and fortune to an individual.
Dear Photograph began life as a blog a mere eight months ago when 22-year-old Taylor Jones, an online media expert in Ontario USA, sat looking through family photographs in his mother's home and pulled out a snap of his younger brother on the day of his third birthday party.
Holding up the picture, he realised it had been taken in the same living room in which he sat. Held at arm's length, the image snapped into place with the background behind it, as though his baby brother had been transported to the future.
He took a photo of the photo locked into this optical illusion and posted it and a few others onto a blog. To use that mystical phrase of our times, the blog 'went viral' and 10m hits later, it was named seventh in Time magazine's list of its 50 best websites of 2011.
Now attracting 20,000 visits a day, My Photograph has been so successful Jones has quit his job and is finishing a book based on the blog. Inevitably, he's also speaking to film and TV executives about how the concept and story behind the blog can be transferred into a work of fiction.
Jones told CTV he knows the concept isn't particularly new, as online groups and users on Flickr have employed the technique for years. Where Jones saw an opportunity that others hadn't was in the story behind the photographs. Each submission to the site is accompanied by a caption that begins 'Dear Photograph...' then goes on to explain the significance of the image to its author.
Dear Photograph feeds our appetite for nostalgia, not only concerning our own lives and families but for photography itself. Just as the youthful faces and dated clothes in the photographs contrast with their modern backdrops, so too the grainy or sepia-tinged qualities of the old shot contrast with the digital clarity of the second photograph.
And on a deeper level, Jones is right when he talks about 'time travel' and the relationship between the past and the future. The essence of nostalgia - that innate longing we sometimes experience to revisit a moment or period from our past that's made all the more bittersweet by knowing its impossible - is realised, fleetingly, when we see one of our memories nestled in the present.
To see more from Dear Photograph or contribute your own, visit the official website.
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