Grandparents are famous for their “back in my day stories,” those lengthy tales about what the world was like when they were young. They’re known for recounting what it looked like, felt like, and even smelled like to be alive...and for sparing no detail. After stumbling upon a cupboard full of artfully composed photographs in his grandpa’s old home, Australian art director Dave Tomkins wanted to hear such tales. When his Grandpa couldn’t recall the details behind the photos, Tomkins took to the Internet, asking strangers to solve the mysteries of his Grandpa’s world travels. And the Internet has delivered.
“Grandpa’s Photos” is the result: a visually stunning website featuring “100 of the best slides that were found in that cupboard.” Half of them are photos of family and friends, and the remaining 50 photos were taken while traveling for business. As the website explains, “The hope is simply that people will appreciate them and share them, making him, if only in my books, great at one more thing.” Scrolling through the website, it’s hard to believe that Grandpa — Stephen Clarke — didn’t consider himself a photographer, as each of the shots is wonderfully composed and lit (which was not so easy to achieve in the days before the Insty filter).
The site encourages visitors to to email Tomkins if they can identify any of the sites in the photographs, and, if possible, to send photographs of the locations as they are today. Tomkins then plots the locations on Google Maps, to visually represent Clarke's travels. Thus far, strangers have identified photos taken at a rotunda in Lisbon, an amusement park in Barcelona, a bridge in Switzerland, The Peak in Hong Kong, and a couple shot from atop The Empire State Building.
Tomkins’ heartfelt project is one of the finer examples of the Internet at work, fostering a spirit of positivity and collaboration across continents. As he told lomography.com: “The response and generosity of people online has been phenomenal. The emails I get daily are so detailed, so helpful, so thoughtful." Tomkins added that his next move is “[To] retake the photos and generate some of my own stories as, unfortunately, Grandpa is no longer here to tell me about his.” He said he plans to use a Voigtlander Bessamatic — the same model of camera that his Grandpa used.
What an original and wonderful tribute to a talented man.
Images: Grandpa's Photos/Facebook