During the late 1970s and 1980s, paramedic Chris Porsz roamed the streets of his hometown Peterborough to take candid photographs of passersby. He snapped pictures of people who stood out from the crowd, be it couples, siblings, friends, etc.
Three decades later, Chris returned to his project and tracked down the same subjects to recreate their portraits and show how much they’ve changed. He compiled the before and after pictures along with the people’s stories in his 2016 book called “Reunions.”
Chris, known as the “paramedic paparazzo, “spent seven years tracking down his subjects and convincing them to recreate the pose once more. His book, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world, has been a complete labor of love.
“This book has been nearly 40 years in the making and I believe the project is totally unique. I don’t think anyone else has tracked down so many strangers and recreated photos in this way before,” he told The Daily Mail.
Chris tried his hand in photography after buying a camera when his first child Simon was born in 1978. Soon, taking family photos wasn’t enough for him anymore. During his days off working as a casualty porter at Peterborough District Hospital, he would roam the streets to look for inspiration.
He was able to snap photos of punks with colorful hair, traders selling their wares, a group of friends hanging out, and many others.
However, by 1986, Chris had gotten a new job as a paramedic. With three children then, his busy life meant that he had less time for his hobby. His albums soon gathered dust.
Then in 2009, Chris saw his old portraits and decided to send a few to his local paper, The Peterborough Evening Telegraph. The readers loved them, and Chris soon started receiving letters from readers who recognized themselves in the photos.
“I had never taken anyone’s phone numbers or names and never expected to see any of the people in my pictures again, I just took them at random,” he said. “Then I realised it would be fun to recreate some of the pictures and I became determined to find more people.”
Chris first reunited with Tony and Sally Wilmot, a couple he pictured saying goodbye to each other at Peterborough Railway Station in 1980. The pair – who married and now has two children – didn’t know their picture had been taken that day. They got in touch with the photographer after Tony’s father saw their photo on the paper and told him about it.
After that reunion, Chris became determined to track down the other subjects of his photos to recreate more shots.
“The first 50 photos took around four years to do, but social media made it easier and soon I was struggling to keep up, sometimes doing 10 reunions a week,” he said.
Chris’s mission also paved the way for old friends and relatives to reunite. Some of them had not seen each other for decades. Other pictures were particularly difficult to shoot, especially when people had moved overseas or passed away.
“It has been enormously satisfying to do so many reunions and seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they met up with old friends again. I’ve felt very privileged,” he said.
Check out the gallery below to see the product of Chris Porsz’s ultimate labor of love.
Dog and Tina (1985 and 2015)
Railway Kiss (1980 and 2009)
Five Boys Running (1987 and 2016)
Pink Mohican (1985 and 2016)
Metal Mickey (1980 and 2016)
County School Girls (1979 and 2016)
Pin Badges (1970 and 2013)
Before and After 40 Years
Ice Cream Seller (1980 and 2014)
Nobby (1980 and 2015)
“Reunions” is available at Chris Porsz’s website.