John “Wedge” Wardlaw, Mark Rumer, Dallas Burney, John “Belves” Molony, and John “JD” Dickson have been friends since high school, bonded by the short Super 8 movies they would make together. “Our common interest of filmmaking bonded us over the years all the way into the early 1990s,” Wardlaw told Business Insider recently.
In 1982, the five friends were spending the July Fourth weekend at Wardlaw’s grandparents’ summer cabin on Copco Lake in Northern California. While hanging on the back porch, Dickson decided to set up his camera and tripod and take a few photos. “When we got the film developed, we all really thought the photos were cool. I even enlarged one and it hung on my wall for years,” says Wardlaw.
The trip became an annual tradition, but it wasn’t until five years later, in 1987, that the friends in the original picture were all together again at the cabin. They decided to re-create their beloved photo from the previous trip and brought it along to match.
In 1992, they found themselves at the cabin again, working on what would be their last film project together. As they sensed their lives moving in different directions, they decided to yet again recreate the photo. It was a colder day, so they wore T-shirts. “Little did we know this would become a trend as we got older,” Wardlaw says.
It was then that Wardlaw suggested they continue taking the photo every five years.
Today, Wardlaw is an indie filmmaker and writer. Dickson runs a website about Santa Barbara and Molony is a wedding photographer, while Burney is an elementary-school teacher and Rumer is an engineer.
Wardlaw called five years “a nice increment.” “Every year would be too hard,” he says. He says they don’t see each other enough these days but they do make an effort to see each other when they can.
The photo from 2002 is special to Wardlaw. “We returned to making a real vow to keep doing this forever and really took our time matching the original.”
Over the years, you can see the guys gain and lose weight, change and lose hair, and become less and more tan.
“It is a wonderful feeling when you have friends like this. Not just friends you know on Facebook or Twitter but real friends with history,” says Wardlaw. “And it is really fun to be able to look at all the photos and watch us age together and know that we’ll keep doing this as long as we possibly can, just to make sure we see each other and keep the friendship going.”
Wardlaw says that the most recent year, 2012, was also special because it was just the five friends, solo. “No other friends or wives along on the trip. We couldn’t believe we were still doing this after 30 years,” he says.
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