His name was Matthew. An impish little kid. Always seemed to be everywhere I was in Fort St. James, where I started my newspaper career. Always had a smile on his face. And he always – always – asked me to take his picture. This, of course, was just in the days before digital, meaning I was using film in my Canon Rebel. I usually obliged Matthew’s request. Sometimes, though, I only pretended to take his picture.
Matthew, or any kid in the Fort for that matter, was easy to photograph because he would willingly pose for me. Unlike the 1,700 or so adults in the Fort who would rather have a root canal than have a photographer take their picture.
I was reminded of young Matthew this week when I found on Facebook a fascinating photo project turned into a book created by a paramedic in Peterborough, in eastern England.
Around 1985 or so, the paramedic began taking candid pictures of people in Peterborough. What he did 30 years later – and to me, this is the remarkable part of this story – is he tracked down a vast majority of the people he photographed and recreated the original photos.
He had pictures of two punk rockers, one man, one woman, with wild hair and colours, standing side by side. Today, the two look nothing like they did in 1985 save for their smiles.
There’s a great black-and-white photo of two boys sitting in an entrance way eating “chips” (French fries) from a bag, followed up with the same boys eating chips from a bag in the same entrance way today.
There are then-and-now shots of a woman picking out bananas in a grocery store, two girls blowing bubble gum bubbles and a man leaning out a train window at a station to kiss his woman.
I can’t but wonder about the effort it took the paramedic to find all of these people again.
Without doing too much research into the project/book, I would guess that a vast majority of the subjects still live in Peterborough, and I’m guessing he must have used social media to track them down. I think it’s one of the coolest photo projects I’ve seen.
The blurb associated with the Facebook page said the paramedic spent seven years – seven! – tracking down the subjects and asking them to please pose again.
I can’t even begin to imagine trying to find some of the people I’ve photographed.
Most of my pictures have been for work. Most of my personal photos are of my son, family and friends. I don’t have a lot of candid subjects to deal with.
I do know about Matthew though. He, unfortunately, died in a snowmobile accident in 2004.
The paramedic’s name is Chris Porsz, and his book is titled Reunions.
If you want to check out the story, click here.