Photography: Exercises in vanity are finding new life

Whether it’s adults recreating childhood snaps – or wearing the same outfit in shots across the ages – photo projects can speak louder than words

They typically begin as cute projects to be shared among friends and family between the thumb-worn pages of photo albums. But in the over-sharing age of the selfie and the Tumblr, exercises in vanity are finding new life, telling stories without words across the web.

Dale Irby, a retired PE teacher from Dallas, Texas, expressed his shock at his minor web celebrity after photos from his school yearbook emerged showing him wearing the same tank top and flappy collar for almost 40 years (that’s him, below right, in 1974 and 2004). The costume repeat was an accident first time, and an in joke that eventually got out thereafter.

Elsewhere, photographers have gone to extreme lengths to find props and outfits that lovingly recreate childhood photos, revealing the effects of age on the face - and nothing else. Irina Werning, an Argentinian photographer, has been the subject of a documentary about her “back to the future” project, which includes photos of Pancho (right) in 1983 and 2010, and Lea (above, right) in 1980 and 2011. Similar projects chart the yearly changes of whole families as columns of photos on a grid begin and, later, end with the arrival and departure of the youngest and oldest members.

No piles of old photos in the loft? No problem – start a digital one now. Noah Kalina has scored more than 25 million hits on YouTube for a video made of close-ups taken daily between 2000 and 2006. He hasn’t stopped since, presenting the images on his website as tiles in his human timelapse project. In signs the web may be tiring of his face, however, the “sequel” has “just” four million hits.

Where a meme rises so does, inevitably, apps to enable  new generation of life-blogging. Photo 365 makes projects such as Kalina’s easier by laying iPhone photos, which have hidden date stamps, over a calendar, allowing you to select shots from your camera roll should you miss a day. A rival app called Everyday, launched with input by Kalina himself, will also nudge you with daily reminders to take photos, and lay a grid over your own face to make sure your selfies are nicely aligned.

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