Retired paramedic Chris spent hours walking around the city of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in the late 1970s and 80s, taking candid shots of buskers, bikers and bin men, punks, policemen and protestors, as well as siblings, sweethearts and street artists.
He started re-constructing a selection of his favourite pictures from the past around 10 years ago after some of his long-lost subjects recognised themselves when he printed their pictures in the Peterborough Telegraph, as well as on his website and Facebook.
He published his recreations in a book called Reunions in 2016 and it was so successful he was inundated with requests to reconstruct more photos.
Now, thanks to social media, Chris has amazingly managed to produce a further 168 reunions in just 12 months and has brought out a sequel, Reunions 2, which comes out this week.
“It has been very humbling and satisfying to witness so many reunions and seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they met up with old friends,” said Chris.
“Some people hadn’t changed atall and others had changed completely. Some have gained hair, others have lost hair. Some have had difficult starts in life and changed their fortunes around, others have not been so lucky.”
Chris picked up his first camera in 1972 to record a hitchhiking trip to Africa with his then girlfriend, now wife, Lesley. Six years later his first child Simon was born and he invested in a better quality camera and soon caught the photography bug.
On his days off from working as an A&E porter, and later a paramedic, he would walk around his home city looking for inspiration.
He would snap anyone who caught his eye, or stood out from the crowd, from punks with bright hair to siblings playing in the streets.
Chris often unknowingly ended up capturing big moments in peoples’ lives, such as a couple shopping for their wedding rings, who are still married 40 years later, and appear on the front cover of his new book.
As he clicked away, Chris had no idea how much the city would change over the next four decades or how important his photos would later become in showing this evolving social history.
Most of the people Chris photographed didn’t know he had taken their picture, he never imagined he would see them again and he didn’t know any of their names.
Then in 2009 he came across his old photos of Peterborough and sent a couple to his local paper, The Peterborough Telegraph.
The editor loved them and Chris was given his own column, Paramedic Paparazzo, publishing two of his pictures a week. Before long he was getting fan mail from readers recognising themselves in the pictures.
By 2016 he had compiled a staggering 134 reunion pictures and they were published in his first book, which became a world-wide success.
Chris thought that would be the end of his project, but during the first Covid pandemic lockdown he began to wonder if he could find more of the people he had never managed to track down.
He said: “From the spring of 2020 onwards, I made constant appeals and repeatedly posted around 300 of these images on social media.
“To my great surprise I immediately started receiving hundreds of messages. There was an amazing community spirit and help from the public who were willing me to succeed.
“It was immensely satisfying when characters I had never dreamed of finding, began coming forward, such as the girl looking at the Christmas cake in a window, random teenagers on fairground rides, brothers feeding each other chips in their pram, the romantic mystery couple that grace my book covers and the commuter and the donkey.”
The front cover of the book is also very special to Chris. He spotted Howard and Sharon Marshall, browsing wedding rings at Ernest Jones on Cathedral Square in Peterborough in the Spring of 1981.
He managed to track them down even though he only had a photo of their backs. The pair have just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and have a daughter, son, grandson and granddaughter.
Chris said: “Although almost 40 years ago, I still remember witnessing this special moment. I took a quick picture and walked on by wondering how it would work out! I was delighted and so surprised when Howard and Sharon contacted me because I knew the chances of finding them from such an obscure photo were remote.”
Chris will doing a book signing in the Salvation Army Superstore in Long Causeway, Peterborough, this Saturday and up until Christmas from 10am to 4pm.
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