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In photos: Poignant portraits drive online success

A Canadian entrepreneur is behind one of the hottest websites of the year, DearPhotograph.com

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Since its launch on May 8 last year, DearPhotograph.com has grown beyond a snapshot in a Kitchener, Ont., home to become an online phenomenon.

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The instructions are simple: Hold up an old photo in front of the place where it was originally shot; take a picture of the picture; then, write a dedication about what the photo means to you.

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The site was the brainchild of Taylor Jones, who's since written a book on the project.

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Thousands have embraced the nostalgic concept and submitted snapshots. This original image of the Twin Towers in New York, above, was taken on 9-10-01, one day before the Sept. 11 attacks.

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The idea for the site was born when Mr. Jones was at home in Kitchener and saw a snapshot of his brother Landon at age 3. He noticed that Landon, now in his teens, was sitting at the same table as he was in the picture. He snapped a photo and shared the image online.

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Mr. Jones created a Twitter feed and Facebook page, intending to publish a book of similar photos. Sites such as Mashable and Reddit helped further propel spread of the concept, and Dear Photograph also landed on Time Magazine's list of the 50 best websites of 2011.

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The Conestoga College graduate said he's been approached by companies wanting to incorporate the premise into advertising. A friend has also penned a script based on the idea that they plan to shop around for a possible film.

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The 22-year-old said he recognized soon after launching the site that it was striking a deeply personal chord with both posters and visitors. "It's a mix of nostalgia and also the emotional connection that humans have with each other," he said.

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In "Dear Photograph," published by Collins and due out on May 8, Mr. Jones has translated the popular premise behind the virtual album of poignant portraits to print.

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