DEAR PHOTOGRAPH: Photography as eternal homecoming

By Sol Salama. May 14, 2012


It's simple: hold a picture from the past in the place where it was photographed and take a picture of the picture. Add a caption to explain the meaning it has for you and you will be part of the fascinating project that –halfway through 2011– started almost as a game: the Dear Photograph site.

Taylor Jones was 22 when he started to leaf through that chest of photographic family heirloom that we all seem to keep. Sitting at the kitchen table of his parents’ house, he found a picture of his brother sitting at that same table… It was then when he thought of the idea that a year later has become a small cybernetic phenomenon, admired and praised worldwide.

Why? We could ask. What could this project have that so many others that fill the Internet don’t? The answer is probably that Dear Photograph deals with a topic that touches the sensitive spot of every human being: the passing of time. Those strong ties that images establish with nostalgia and the passing of time (what Susan Sontag names the generalized pathos of looking at time past) are maybe one of the most essential characteristics of photography. In Jone’s project this becomes so tangible that it is at the same time beautiful and sad and, without doubt, it’s the best appeal of Dear Photograph, which this month has published a book with a selection of the best pictures.

It’s curious that, although photography is nostalgia, it is also the opposite: capturing instants seems to be a way to fight the angst it stirs in many of us. But more than ever after visiting Dear Photograph, what’s clear is that “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

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