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Image: Photo of little boy in a tuxedo from DearPhotograph.com
DearPhotograph.com invites people to "take a picture of a picture from the past in the present." People have been doing that and submitting their photos along with simple captions, like this one: "Dear Photograph, I looked good in a tux."
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 6/29/2011 1:51:35 PM ET 2011-06-29T17:51:35

Some ideas take months to germinate and develop before they explode. Here’s one that took just a matter of days.

In late May, inspiration struck an enterprising 21-year-old Canadian who still lives at home with his parents. The notion was a little whimsical and staggeringly simple.

“I was with my parents and my brothers sitting at our kitchen table, looking through an old photo album,” explained Taylor Jones, the young man who experienced the brain wave. “I noticed a picture that was taken at the actual kitchen table where we were looking at the photos. I held it up, and my brother was sitting in the exact same spot. I said, ‘Oh, man, I need to take a picture of this! This is cool!’ ”

Jones held up the old photograph of the kitchen table against the present reality of the kitchen table and snapped a picture. The effect was, in a word, awesome. He did the same thing with four or five other photos from the album, and he sent them to his friends to see whether they liked them.

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They really, really did. So, in a flash, he bought a domain name — DearPhotograph.com — and posted some straightforward-yet-poignant captions along with his past-juxtaposed-against-the-present images.

Slideshow: ‘Pictures of pictures from the past in the present’ (on this page)

And then ... KABOOM! Within about three weeks, Jones and his new site had 1.2 million visitors, 15,000 followers on Tumblr, 8,000 followers on Facebook and 2,000 followers on Twitter. (Side note: Those numbers are even higher today.) Jones also received multiple offers from literary agencies wanting to help him publish a book. (Another side note: He just signed with one in Los Angeles.)

“I’ve never said the words ‘insane,’ ‘crazy’ and ‘unreal’ as many times as I have in the past few weeks,” Jones said. “I just don’t know how to explain the feeling to people. It’s — well, it’s insane!

“I mean, it’s crazy that such a simple idea has turned into something that has such an emotional pull on a human being. It’s just nuts.”

Image: Taylor Jones
Courtesy Taylor Jones
Dear Photograph founder Taylor Jones lives at home with his parents and two younger brothers.

Emotional pull is exactly what the site serves up on a daily basis. People all over the world are submitting their own photos-within-photos to DearPhotograph.com, and many of them pack such a nostalgic wallop that they’re motivating busy adults everywhere to visit their aging parents and flip through old photo albums with them.

“People are writing me and saying, ‘Oh, you’ve given me a reason to go back and see my parents who I haven’t seen in months,’ ” Jones said.

Slideshow: Like parent, like child: Recreating family photos (on this page)

The site even has some prominent folks in the entertainment industry misty-eyed — and Dear Photograph’s traffic jumped even more when they tweeted about it.

“Never had a photo blog get me teary eyed,” tweeted Joe Quesada, a comic book creator and chief creative officer of Marvel Entertainment.

Image: Photo of a toddler boy on his father's shoulder from DearPhotograph.com
The caption submitted along with this photo said, "Dear Photograph, Dad always had the comfiest shoulder. David."

“Love this. Simultaneously cool and kind of heartbreaking,” wrote Lee Unkrich, director of the Academy Award-winning movie “Toy Story 3.”

Jones, who has graduated from college, works as a social media specialist for a company in the Toronto area. In addition to pursuing a book, he and a friend want to use the photo-within-a-photo concept as the basis for a movie script or a television series.

“This idea has been done before, putting a picture in front of a picture,” Jones said. “What I did was add the caption so it’s like you’re talking to the photograph. It’s what makes everybody relate to the pictures and have more of an emotional attachment.”

Jones has no idea how far he’ll be able to ride this Dear Photograph wave, but he’s excited to see what might happen. His parents and his two younger brothers, ages 18 and 15, are all astonished by everything that’s transpired in such a short time.

“My parents were kind of iffy when this whole thing started. They’d say, ‘Don’t quit your day job!’ ” Jones said, laughing. “They’ve become really supportive. My mom is so excited ... And who knows? Hopefully eventually this will be able to get me out of the house!”

To see more photos within photos, check out this slideshow  or visit DearPhotograph.com.

Need a Coffey break? Friend TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter  or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Dear Photograph: ‘Pictures of pictures from the past in the present’

loading photos...
  1. Time warp

    The website DearPhotograph.com invites people to "take a picture of a picture from the past in the present." People all over the world have been doing just that. The following nostalgic images and captions come from DearPhotograph.com.

    Dear Photograph,

    He was a wonderful man and she grew up to be a wonderful woman.

    Anonymous (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Hi Dad!

    Dear Photograph,

    Dad never took a picture of me, ever. Then I noticed his reflection in the glass. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

    Anonymous (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Down life's path together

    Dear Photograph,

    This was the best day. 650 days and counting.

    … @mrspoultry (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Hoop dreams

    Dear Photograph,

    I drained 3’s all day!

    Janet (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Footprints in the sand

    Dear Photograph,

    Grandma loved this beach.

    Dan Perry (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Then and now

    Dear Photograph,

    Chinatown use to be livelier.

    @applesundae (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Lawn ago

    Dear Photograph,

    That stop sign gave me a good excuse to stop cutting the lawn.

    Tim Freeland (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. All in the family

    Dear Photograph,

    That’s love.

    @mithical (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Play time

    Dear Photograph,

    I miss that playground.

    Anonymous (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Looking back

    Dear Photograph,

    I wish I treated you better when we were in high school.

    @Sarah_Bernstein (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Warm shoulder

    Dear Photograph,

    Dad always had the comfiest shoulder.

    David (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Strong suit

    Dear Photograph,

    I looked good in a tux.

    @TJ (DearPhotograph.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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