Do you ever wonder what your parents were like as children? If you could somehow go back in time and be the same age as them, would you be friends?
One artist is using the magic of Photoshop to delve deeper into that very idea.
Danielle Delph, an Oregon-based artist and art director, began placing herself in her mother’s vintage photographs as a surprise for her mother, Janis, and the project took off from there. We caught up with Danielle to discuss the photos, her process, and the state of memories in an internet world.
Business Insider: Hey Danielle! How did this project begin? What was your inspiration?
Danielle Delph: I think everyone asks themselves at some point, “Would I have been friends with my parents if I had grown up with them?” I wondered while I was looking at old photos one day. What would it look like if I placed my childhood self next to my mother? Would we have looked like friends? Would I be able to capture the same moments and interactions that real friends share?
BI: What’s the process like to create these images? How long do you usually take per photograph?
DD: The process took about 6 months total. I had to have my mum and family friends mail me both her and my old childhood photos, which proved more tricky than expected. We had lost a majority of childhood photos when Hurricane Ivan hit our home in Pensacola, Florida, so there were far less photos to work with than I would have hoped. The majority of that time was spent digging through our photos and trying to match ages and moments. From a technical perspective, there was a lot of scanning and photoshopping, but no specific time frame for each individual photo. Some were much easier than others. It was more about finding the right photos.
BI: What was your mother’s reaction?
DD: She loved it. She found it really touching. It made her cry when she first saw it and she says she goes to the site every day, which she now calls “our site.” She made a comment about it feeling very “deja vu,” almost like these moments had actually happened. She thinks that we truly could have been friends.
BI: Any more good photos in the works?
DD: It wasn’t originally an ongoing project but I do have some ideas on how to continue the series. It’s all about getting the right imagery, so if I’m lucky I might be able to pull it off again. We’ll see.
BI: What do you hope viewers will take away from the series?
DD: I hope they take away that our parents are more similar to us than we think. They were kids and teenagers at one point, going through the same things we went though. We just never saw that part of their lives. We live in a time where we constantly look toward the future; this project made me realise that it’s important to take a step back and look at your past sometimes.
BI: What are your thoughts on digital photos versus physical photos when it comes to collecting and saving memories? Do you ever get worried that future generations won’t have access to the same hard copy history that we have of our parents, now that most of our personal photos only live online or on a computer?
DD: This is a really great question, and I have sort of a two-part answer.
During this project, I felt like it was less about film versus digital as a medium and more about how digital has changed the way we take photos now. As I was digging through my mother’s photos, I realised how differently her generation took photos compared to mine. They captured very specific moments — a recital, Christmas Eve, a vacation to New Orleans, moments that are meant to be put in a photo album that you would sit around and look at. At first, I found that it was hard for me to find photos of myself that connected with her photos because we’re a culture that takes a picture of a chicken sandwich, and attaches hashtags to it (I am also guilty of this).
When I talked to my mum about the differences, she explained, “Film was expensive; people were precious about what they took because you had to take time and money to develop it.” For us now, we have the ability to be way less curated about the photos we take because we deal with gigabytes and storage space, allowing us to take thousands of photos. Right now, I have photos on my phone from 2012 and 2013, and I’ve never printed even one. It makes me worry that the idea of the “family photo album” might be getting lost. When do we sit around and look back on moments together? Will Facebook albums replace the traditional family photo album?
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