My journey began on May 25th, 2011, while sitting at the dinner table looking through old photographs that my mom had carefully placed in countless albums and suddenly I was struck by a familiar scene. I picked up a photograph of my younger brother, grinning from ear to ear over his Winnie the Pooh birthday cake, from years gone by. I looked at my brother Landon sitting across from me where he was sitting in the exact same chair. I took the photograph out of the album and began to move my arm in front of me lining up the past picture of Landon with the present and in a slow motion moment that light bulb of an idea came to me. I ran for my camera and took a picture of the picture from the past in the present. I began running around the house with various photos in hand snapping picture after picture capturing the scene that was throwing everything back in time. I ran to my computer to upload them to Tumblr.
Tumblr asked me for a caption, and I wondered, if my brother could talk to his picture what would he say to that little guy way back then? I typed out the salutation "Dear Photograph, I wish I had as much swag then as I do now" Landon. I posted it along with 5 other photos. Each caption expressed my desire to reconnect with my past by taking me back in time and allowing me to relive the memory even if it was for only one brief moment.
Suddenly people from around the world began submitting their photos and personal stories. The site was growing exponentially every day, 16 hits to 100 to 3,000 and then a quarter of a million hits from Reddit. Mashable picked up Dear Photograph and my idea began to create unbelievable buzz among media outlets around the world.
Dear Photograph inspires visitors to dig through their shoe boxes full of photos and create new memories and experiences from a time already lived. Via the website, people can offer support, advice, prayers, or simply good wishes to fellow users who share the personal stories of their photographs.
Dear Photograph has allowed me a glimpse inside other people's lives and enabled me to learn from their life lessons. It is humbling to say the least. My own life experience has been very limited as I am young and for that I am really grateful. Perhaps we all share the same secret wish to slow down and turn back time, even if it just for a little bit. Maybe recapturing the past helps us not to forget how we want to live right now and embrace those around us today and tomorrow. Because after all, like the flash of a camera... suddenly we aren't here anymore.
Taylor Jones is the author of Dear Photograph [HarperCollins, $25.99].