Australian art director Dave Tomkins found a box of old photos hidden away in a closet at his grandfather’s house. The discovery made him want to know more about where the photos had been taken, and inspired a trip to all the places of his grandfather’s itinerary.
Curious about his grandfather’s experiences, Tomkins quit his job as the creative director for an advertising agency in New York, managed to get his hands on a Voigtländer camera—the same model his grandfather had used—and got on a plane to travel in his grandfather’s footsteps. Journeying to seven countries and seventeen cities, he visited almost all the places where his grandfather had taken the pictures.
He took the same photo at every location that his grandfather had taken. Granted, this was done at a different time with different passers-by and views, but he took them from the same vantage point and kept everything else the same where possible. “Taking pictures with the Voigtländer didn’t turn out to be that easy,” Tomkins says. “I discovered how talented my grandfather was. Sometimes, it was a major production just to take the same shot, with the same lighting and composition. I also had the advantage of being able to first try it with my digital camera, something my grandfather couldn’t do.”
Everywhere Tomkins went, he tried to imagine what it must have been like for his grandfather to stand in those spots, still young and with his whole life ahead of him. “It was a unique and unforgettable experience,” he says, “thanks in no small part to all the positive reactions I got from people everywhere. I felt closer to my grandfather than ever. His photos and the trip completely changed my life.”
“I am now working on this full-time and am loving every second. Almost all the locations have now been identified and, to be honest, this makes me sad—what happens when I’m finished? I now talk about my grandfather constantly, and it makes me feel like he’s still around. One day this will change and secretly I’m dreading it. Maybe that’s why I keep coming up with new ideas. I want to make a documentary about Grandpa’s photos and help other people set up similar projects. These are all plans and excuses to keep his memory alive as long as possible.”
- The full story ‘Grandpa’s photo’s’ can be found in Issue 25.
- If you want to see more of Dave’s work, you can visit his website or Instagram.
Text Annalot Boersma Photography Stephen Clarke and Dave Tomkins