Reunions of family and friends have taken on a new meaning since the pandemic, and one photographer has encapsulated their joys in a work that spans 40 years.
Chris Porsz, 68, has recreated hundreds of photographs he took in the 1970s and 1980s with a camera he bought after the birth of his first child in 1978.
He has been described as dedicated, committed and obsessed after tracking down the subjects of these photographs taken in his hometown of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.
Helped by the arrival of social media, word of mouth and his first book Reunions, he has been able to create a heartwarming second book Reunions, which provides an astonishing glimpse into the passage of time.
Most of the subjects had no idea that Chris was taking the original photographs, but instantly recognised themselves when they were published in The Peterborough Evening Telegraph from 2009.
Chris said: “I have been very privileged to be reunited with my characters and it was wonderful to witness the smiles, hugs and kisses of long-lost friends, and now you, too, can enjoy those special moments thanks to the magic of photography.”
Friends Toni Cray and Teresa Weston were photographed on the Sizzler at the Town Bridge Fair in Peterborough in 1985.
Toni said: “We had just left Stanground Comprehensive School after taking our CSE/GCSE exams and a big gang of us went to the fair on the Friday night to celebrate. I was 15 and Teresa was 16. It was an absolutely brilliant night.”
When the pair reunited for the second photograph in 2021 they hadn’t seen each other for more than 20 years.
“It was amazing recreating the photo. We hugged each other, then sat on the ride and laughed our heads off. Teresa tried to hang on but I ended up getting squashed, just like in the original picture.”
Gloria Steele worked as a lollipop lady at Queen’s Drive School at Dogsthorpe Road in Peterborough for seven years during the 1980s.
She said: “It was great fun recreating the photo in uniform with a new lollipop pole and I had not lost my touch as the cars kept stopping, so it brought back lots of happy memories. We had a good laugh and it was lovely to see the girls all grown up.”
Mazia Ahmad, Gulfraz Umar and Tanya Porter were all friends at Queen’s Drive School. None of them remembered their photo being taken.
“I had to check with my mum and she recalled my coat,” Tanya says. “I immediately remembered the lollipop lady, she always had a smile on her face and hasn’t changed a bit. It’s funny because we’re now taller than her.”
Nurses Karen Belson, Maggie Moore, Anita Downs and Jane Kew were photographed having a tea break at the Peterborough District Hospital cafeteria in the early 1980s. They all worked night shifts so their break was often past midnight.
They reunited to recreate their photo in September 2020.
Anita, who is married and still lives in Peterborough said: “I usually see Jane regularly and keep in touch with Karen, but I hadn’t seen Maggie since she left work so it was lovely to all meet up again.”
Howard and Sharon Marshall were spotted by Chris browsing wedding rings at Ernest Jones in Peterborough in 1981.
The married couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in 2021.
They said: “Ernest Jones had a big window display and we think we were browsing for wedding rings one evening. We had no idea Chris had taken our picture and when we saw it recently we didn’t even know if it was us. We had to ask our family to help identify us.”
Brothers Mark and Matt Court were photographed in 1980 eating chips in a pram while their mum went shoe-shopping in Bridge Street, Peterborough.
Matt said a friend recognised him from the photo posted to Facebook. They posed for the second photograph in April 2021.
He added: “When my mum saw it she loved it and was very emotional. I think I was about 12 months in the photo and Mark was about two-and-a-half. We think mum was shopping for cowboy boots for our dad.”
Dr Richard Scott was photographed with his three daughters in Bridge Street, Peterborough in 1994.
Bethany, Abigail and Emma all now have children of their own and met in 2021 to recreate the family photo.
Abigail’s baby Leonardo was born a day after the reunion photo was taken.
Joe Wright was often seen around Peterborough with a pet barn owl named Rocky perched on his shoulder and Chris took a photo of him at a country and western show in 1984.
Sadly, Rocky is no longer with us, but Joe posed with another barn owl called Sparkle from The Exotic Pet Refuge in Deeping St James for the reunion photo.
Joe said: “It was lovely to have an owl on my shoulder again and brought back great memories.”
Andy Ireland was photographed dressed as a chimney sweep for a fancy dress competition at the Gladstone Street Carnival outside the old Marcus Garvey Club in Peterborough in 1981.
He said: “I didn’t want to take part in the fancy dress contest but at the last minute I changed my mind and we put my outfit together in about 10 minutes. We used my grandad’s old hat, covered in carbon paper, and grabbed a chimney brush from the shed. My mum helped to organise the competition.”
The reunion picture was taken at Peterborough Market as the Marcus Garvey Club was destroyed in a fire.
Chris Porsz’s book Reunions 2 is available from his website chrisporsz.com and he will be making a donation from his sales to Breast Cancer Research.