As Taylor Jones flipped through old photos at his family home, an idea struck him that went viral - fast.
In just three weeks, the Kitchener man's site, dearphotograph.com, has garnered book offers, reality show pitches and even screenplay queries. The site has been plugged on such traffic-driving heavyweights as Mashable, Gawker and Reddit - three popular sources of Internet trends.
Dear Photograph has been "liked" over 2,000 times on Facebook and counting. Overnight last Wednesday, the site's traffic jumped from 10,000 to over a quarter of a million unique visits.
The Washington Post emailed Jones about an interview, and he has an upcoming interview with "Good Morning Sacramento" via Skype - a free, online program that allows user to video chat. He took calls from agents in Los Angeles on the way to a lunch meeting last Thursday.
"I can't even keep track (of media requests) any more," said Mr. Jones, a Conestoga College advertising grad, wearing lightly tinted aviators and a brown hoodie.
"It's almost unreal. It's just happened way too fast. Usually this takes months to happen," said Mr. Jones, a social media community manager at a local technology company that prefers not to be named. "I don't even remember thinking of the name, Dear Photograph ... I guess it all kinda happened."
When 21-year-old Mr. Jones stumbled across an aged snapshot of his younger brother, Langdon Jones, 18, sitting at the exact same table and chair years earlier, he thought, "This would be really cool if I took a picture within a picture."
So he overlaid the old scene on the new and snapped away. He repeated the process with a few other prints, and then the self-professed social-media junkie bought the domain name dearphotograph.com and posted the shots on May 24. Each of his picture-on-picture creations carries a cutline that adds context and meaning.
After he posted a handful of his own samples, other submissions started trickling in. The first few days he got a couple, then about 10 or so a day, but the night his traffic spiked, he awoke to over 30 new submissions in his inbox.
There's a snap of a snapshot of a corner on Spadina Avenue in Toronto with the line "Chinatown used to be livelier" underneath. Another shows a beach with a photo of an elderly woman picking shells paired with the line, "Grandma loved this beach."
Touching, meta, anachronistic, sentimental, wistful and simple, dearphotographs.com echoes earlier blog-turned-book phenomenon PostSecret, which publishes readers' secrets sent in anonymously the old-fashioned way - by mail.
Mr. Jones has actually been in contact with Frank Warren, PostSecret founder, to seek advice, and a family friend in the entertainment business that he can't name has helped guide him through his ongoing offers.
"It'll be made into a book, I know that much for sure. I just need to find the right agency to do it with," said Jones.
But if Mr. Jones's mix of soon-to-be-antiquated technology with social media doesn't really sound like anything new, it's because it's not. Another popular blog, Sleeveface, asks fans to send in funny photos posing with vinyl records replacing their faces. Then there's Young Me, Now Me, which invites its audience to restage old photos and then posts the results.
Mr. Jones says he's shocked by the site's success. He also runs a blog that posts acoustic sessions by regional artists and he sold his mom's scrapbooking business online and helped a globe-trotting angler start fishthisworld.com. Jones has even tried to get into the mass-couponing hype that's pushed one discount-peddling site, Groupon.ca, into an initial public offering with his own version, knowthedeals.com. He's also tried his hand at the link-based "what's cool online now" model that Reddit and Mashable excel at with spreadingawesome.com. But none of those earlier efforts garnered a similar response, and Jones himself can't tell you why.
"I've always been the one criticized for spending too much time on the Internet," said Mr. Jones. "I've put a lot of work into doing what I do, and I guess I finally hit that button."