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I love innovative, crowd-driven social media projects, and the new Tumblr site Dear Photograph has caught my eye (and that of many others) as of late. Founded by Canadian Taylor Jones, the site mantra is simple: “Take a picture of a picture from the past in the present.” In other words, hold a print photo in front of the original site and take a picture of that. Then post it online.
The photos so far have offered a delightful taste of Americana, a retroactive look at weddings, lost loves and even lost trucks. Most by far reflect on the loss of childhood innocence, whether by declaring “Now I’m wondering where my cool Mickey Mouse hat is at” or asking “Why can’t I concentrate this hard anymore?”
The collection shows the brilliance of combining analog prints in a digital format, and the richness afforded by crowdsourcing the project and letting anyone submit images. It’s hard to imagine a project like this having the same emotional impact if implemented with Facebook photos and Photoshop. And if done by a single artist, it would seem indulgent or childish.
To submit your own photo, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or through their Tumblr submission page. I’d like to see fewer photos about nostalgia and regret and more that challenge the way we look at the past. How about more shots from the high school angst years, or from your first miserable day job, or your first ratty apartment? Growing up is hard, friends are lost, being a kid was fun, but sometimes it’s a good thing to leave the past behind.
(Fun fact: for some reason, even though Tumblr is accessible here in Beijing, Dear Photograph is blocked by the Great Firewall. I have yet to figure out why.)
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