In this project I ask people to find an old portrait of them selfs, of which they have good memories. We remake that picture.
Only a few old photographs with good memories
It all started with my own family and family of friends but later I also photographed complete strangers. I tell people about my project and sometimes that leads to new models. Prior to the shoot I explain what we’re going to do and what I need. That’s not much: only a few old photographs to choose from with good memories. I always tell them that the shoot is great fun (and it is!) and I show them my previous work.
Stories behind the pictures
The shoot always takes place at their own homes to make them feel comfortable. I try to hear as much as possible about the selected images and their stories. Why and where was the image taken? What do they remember? What’s the story behind the old image. Together we choose 3 to 5 images for the remake and it should be real portraits; no holiday snapshots. It takes about 1 to 2 hours to hear all the stories (which I love!) and it actual shoot takes 30 minutes at the most.
Reliving the happy moment
When talking to them about the picture, you see them reliving the happy moment. Only after I know all the details about the past of that picture, we start the shoot. I’ve visited a 89 year couple who told me all kinds of great stories behind the pictures; in which they were just 21 years old and just married. I really saw them reliving that moment and back came the sparkles in their eyes!
People hardly change
People’s looks hardly change over time, even after 50 or 60 years. They only grow smaller and get some wrinkles but the looks always stay the same. My photo project is proof for this.
It started with my own family and family of friends but later I also photographed complete strangers. I tell people about my project and sometimes that leads to new models.
One woman (85) told me her picture was taken right after WWII (1946) and she got her dress from the red cross and her mom had made some flowers on the dress. She was so proud! On her new bike she rode like 20 kilometers to the nearest photo studio to get her picture taken. She even put on her old ring, just to match the old photo. Beautiful.
The actual shoot
While making the pictures I only try to pay attention to their mimic, body position, composition and background, to match the old photo as good as possible. I never ask them to get out any attributes or props; they always do that themselves and that’s great to see! During the shoot it’s the challenge to exactly match the position of the models head and body and get them to imitate their looks.
At post-production I crop and tilt the image and adjust some controls to match the old image. If it’s a high-contrast image, I’ll turn up the blacks in the new photo. After the first few shoots I converted all the pictures to black and white because I think that way the portraits stand out the best and you don’t get distracted by colors. But later I realized it’s sometimes better to leave old pictures in the original colors and adjust the new photo likewise.
Publications and online presence
- My Modern Met – Art trendwatching site with over 2 mln visitor per month. They picked up my project and it got over 100.000 views in just four days. The site also voted me #9 in the Top 10 Breakthrough Photographers of 2011.
- Little Thing – Chinese magazine (230.000 subscribers) placed an interview about my ‘Back from the Future’ project:
- Connecticut Paper – Interview with US paper about my ‘Back from the Future’ series:
- Stumble Upon - More than 268.000 people pressed their Stumble Upon button to share my project on My Modern Met.
- Facebook – Over 1.000 Likes on Facebook.
- Twitter – Over 350 tweets about my project.
- Trendhunter – “Reenacted Retro Portaits”
- Visualnews.com – “Tracking Personal Histories Across Time”
- Whudat.de – “Past meets Present”
- Padmag.cn – Chinese magazine for the eyes
- Flavorwire – Site about cultural news and critique.
- Behance Network – A creative professional platform. My project has gotten over 1.200 views and almost more than 70 appreciations.