Dear Photograph: New-Age Nostalgia

May 14, 2012
Originally published on May 23, 2012 9:47 am

You may have heard of Dear Photograph, a website that invites readers to submit photos of photos — images from the past, set in the present. Over the past year, the website received thousands of submissions. In fact, enough for a book, also called Dear Photograph, which was released earlier this month.

Taylor Jones, 22, is the man behind the project. He came up with the idea last year while sitting at his parents' kitchen table. While flipping though a family photo album, he stumbled across a picture of his younger brother, Landon.

"It was his third birthday," Jones says. "He had a Winnie the Pooh cake, and I was sitting in the same spot my mom was when she took the original photo." Landon was also sitting in his same birthday seat.

So, Jones held up the old picture — taking care to line up kitchen cupboards just so — and snapped a photo. He posted it on his blog, and the rest, he says, is history.

"I'm a new-age nostalgic guy, I guess you could say," he says.

You can submit your photograph on Jones' blog.

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Think of how a photograph can transport you, what it's like when you come across an album that hasn't been opened for years, or find an unexpected photo wrapped in a yellowed-envelope. It just takes you somewhere.

A new book presents images from the past that are set in the present. That book, "Dear Photograph," is based on a Web site by the same name. The concept is simple: take an old photo, go to where it was originally shot, hold it up in the same place, and take a new photo.

The young man behind "Dear Photograph" is Taylor Jones. He first started playing with this idea while sitting at his parent's kitchen table last year, flipping though a family photo album.

TAYLOR JONES: And I came across a photo of my younger brother, Landon, who was sitting in the exact same spot as he was at the kitchen table, in the same photo that we saw in the photo album - it was on his third birthday. He was wearing - or he had a Winnie the Pooh cake. And I was sitting in the same spot that my mom was when she took the original photo.

GREENE: Jones held up the old photo and he took a picture of a picture. The kitchen cupboards in the room and in that old photo were lined up perfectly. He posted this on his blog and invited others to send in their own photos. And over the last year, he's received thousands of submissions and millions of visitors have come to his site.

He asks people to submit their photos along with a caption which begins with the words Dear Photograph.

JONES: When you send it in, you write how you feel. It's like the juxtaposition between the past and the present in the photos. Because it's like Dear Photograph, it's kind of like a platform for people to exchange their - almost their feelings with each other, 'cause everybody can relate to personal memories. And just having that difference between the past and the present, always brings - it brings another sort of dimension to it. So it's pretty cool.

GREENE: I'm looking at one photo where it's an old, kind of, fading photograph of a little girl standing on the sidewalk. And that photo is being held up by a woman, almost lined up with the sidewalk as it stands today. And she writes: Dear Photograph, I'm still blowing kisses.

JONES: Yeah, I know. That one is really well-lined up. Like, it looks like the sidewalk still has like the same grass growing onto the sidewalk. And like the light poles lined up and all the houses along the side are lined up. And you can still see the cars are lined up real well.

GREENE: Although different style cars. The cars in the old photograph look like they're from the '60s...


JONES: Yeah.

GREENE: ...maybe, and then we have a modern day SUV on the street in the background.

JONES: Yes. So it's really cool to see the difference between what's happened then and now. And especially with this one, it's like overexposed or something. And it's just been awesome to see so many people submitting their memories to me and allowing me to share them with the world. So...

GREENE: If you don't mind me asking you. Tell us how old you are.

JONES: I'm 22. So it's very odd for me, because it's a whole nostalgia thing. And I'm like - I've collected newspapers since Wayne Gretzky retired. I remember that was my first newspaper I collected...

GREENE: You're a hockey fan.

JONES: Yeah, I'm a hockey fan. Yeah...


JONES: I'm from Canada, right?


GREENE: Of course.

JONES: So for my day and age right now, I would consider myself, I guess, like an old soul. But I really don't know - I guess I'm a New-Age nostalgic guy, I guess you could say.


GREENE: I like that, New-Age nostalgic guy.

JONES: Yeah, New-Age nostalgic.

GREENE: Well, Taylor, thanks so much for being here. And good luck with the project.

JONES: No problem, I appreciate it. Thank you.

GREENE: Taylor Jones' new book is "Dear Photograph." And if you go to, you can see a slideshow including an image our own Susan Stamberg recently took.


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Renee is in Afghanistan, David Greene reporting in Richmond today; in Washington, I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.