I honestly can't believe that it has been one year since I decided to start a photo blog called DearPhotograph.com and now the cliche "what a difference a year makes" really does ring true.
The idea behind Dear Photograph is simple: hold up a photo from the past in front of the place where it was originally shot, then take a picture of the picture, adding a dedication about what the photograph means to you.
I have used the word "surreal" over and over throughout the year to describe what this whole experience has meant to me and as overused as it is, it really does describe my feelings perfectly. It is surreal to think that in one year, that one idea, has taken off and had such an emotional impact, resonating with so many people around the world.
For me it all began May 25, 2011 and I was sitting around the kitchen table looking through old photo albums with my family.
I noticed my brother Landon was sitting in the chair in the exact same spot as the photo that he was pictured in from his third birthday. I held up the photo from the past and lined it up with the present scene and suddenly the light bulb idea appeared and everything went in slow motion. I ran around the house with various other old photos in hand, snapping picture after picture, capturing the scene that was taking me for a ride back in time.
I knew I wanted to share this with my friends right now and that's when I ran to my computer to upload the photo to Tumblr and responded to the invite of what would I like to write for a caption. I wondered what my brother would say to his picture if he could talk to that little guy back then. I typed out the salutation " Dear Photograph, I wish I had as much swag then as I do now." I posted it along with five other photos that expressed my desire to reconnect with my past by taking me back in time, allowing me to relive the memory even for just a moment or two.
Friends loved the photos and began sharing them with their friends and they in turn did the same. I created a Twitter feed and Facebook profile and the hits were growing exponentially everyday.
We went from 16 hits in one day to 100 to 3,000 and then suddenly a quarter million hits from Reddit. People began submitting their photos and personal memories from around the world with the innate desire to revisit a time that was long gone.
Mashable picked up Dear Photograph and my idea began to create unbelievable buzz in the media outlets around the world.
To even imagine that in three weeks DearPhotograph.com had gone viral was surreal and the first of many surreal moments to come for me personally.
The massive inflow of people's personal photographs and stories has affected me in many ways. At first I thought it was just a cool photo blog but I soon realized as so many personal memories flooded my e-mail, I had landed on something that was striking a chord with so many and resonating around the world
The response to the site has really shown me their is a need for people to want to share and connect with each other worldwide. Cherished memories are bittersweet and I have also learned that there's definitely a universal feeling or desire for people wanting to connect immediately by sharing their stories whether happy or sad or filled with regrets from simpler times gone by and get that immediate feedback.
I think it's amazing that DearPhotograph.com has allowed people to connect and reach out to one another relating to each other's personal stories regardless of age, race, color or culture. I love that part of it is seeing that there are no borders or barriers. That holds true for everything from embracing each other with support and even proves that on some level we all want the same things.
I also realize the impact of technology and how it has had us all on such a fast track, exploding minute by minute, with the latest and greatest ways to connect and we are all trying to keep up.
Reading people's stories and looking at their photos has made me see that the secret wish for so many people is actually to slow down, turn back time, even to just remember where we have been and more importantly to not forget how we want to live going forward.
My own life experience is has been very limited as I am young. But I also come from a great family. This whole experience has allowed me to peek inside people's lives and has given me the gift of learning from their life lessons.
That alone is invaluable.
I also think it's amazing to see that race, age, color, gender and language are no barriers on the site and we all share a common need to to revisit a person or regret or just simpler times
Now that the book is out in North America, the one thing we hear over and over, is how much conversation it brings into a room when people start looking through it. It really does fit the nostalgic coffee table book concept and it's great to know that's how people are responding to it and talking about it.
Personally I think the book turned out to be a beautiful tribute to people's submissions and personal stories. So many people have said that they got teary-eyed at parts, smiled at others and just overall were taken aback with how touching everything is.
I've had a lot of people tell me they are inspired to go and revisit that memory they have put away in a box and take it out once more so they can travel back to that place in time and reconnect with it.
That is a journey worth taking for sure. In the meantime, for me, my journey continues to be one of gratitude.
Taylor Jones is the founder of Dear Photograph.com and the author of "Dear Photograph" (William Morrow, May 2012) is a stunning visual compilation of 140 never-before-seen images based on the website. DearPhotograph.com was founded by Jones in 2011 when he was only twenty-one years old.