Snap! How photographs from the past became an internet sensation

Taylor Jones was sifting through a box of old family photos when he found a picture of his younger brother sitting in a chair at the kitchen table. The 21-year-old Canadian looked up and noticed that the same chair was in front of him. Lifting the picture to fit with the background behind it, he stumbled across an idea which has landed him a book deal and turned his photography blog into a global internet phenomenon.

"The past month has been crazy. I can barely keep up," he told The Independent by phone from Ontario. "I had an idea and it just went mad." That idea was as simple as it was infectious: take a picture of an old photo held up in front of the place it was originally taken and post it online. The result is a seemingly magical doorway to the past, filled with nostalgia, that combines the old method of printing photographs with the viral might of social networking.

In a month, Mr Jones's website DearPhotograph.com has gone from a start-up blog to the latest cyber "meme" with more than 3.5 million hits and an army of dedicated fans. "People can relate so readily to it," he said. "After the five photos I originally posted I've been crowd-sourcing other people's photos. I get about 30 photos a day and so far the site has had around 3.5m hits."

Submissions have come in from across North America, Britain, Brazil and Australia. Every day, Mr Jones wakes up to a new batch of photos from people dusting off their family albums and giving them a new lease of life. Part of the website's appeal is the way each photo contains a caption underneath it providing a brief – and often tantalisingly short – description of what the photograph means to the person who took it.

Mr Jones said the shot with the most hits so far was posted a week ago and shows an old man looking at a bench. The old photo shows the same bench and the same man with his laughing wife years earlier. The caption reads: "Dear photograph, thank you for everything we had."

"That one has been really popular," he says, "It's pretty decent, really intense. It's really cool to see people's stories behind the photos."

News
people

Arts and Entertainment
JJ Abrams' seventh Star Wars, The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of Episode VII has gone online after weeks of anticipation
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Cloud Support Engineer

    £25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a team player who likes...

    Langley James : Head of IT; e-commerce; Blackburn; up to £55k

    £50000 - £55000 per annum: Langley James : Head of IT; e-commerce; Blackburn; ...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

    £90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game