Most of us have our own way of making those memories last. One father and son team decided to take the same photo for three decades to create the ultimate memory photo album.
Many of us have family traditions. Perhaps it’s seeing all of your family during the holidays? Maybe you all make the same dessert for someone’s birthday? How about getting each other the same gift each year? Whatever the case, it can be easy to fall into those traditions.
Some people want to find a tradition that helps those memories last a lifetime. Thankfully, there are so many ways to keep them alive. Many people have home movies of their time as a kid that they can watch back with everyone else in the family. Others have hundreds and hundreds of photos to enjoy. Those pictures can help bring the day back to life as though it never passed.
Although one dad and his son wanted to take plenty of photos, there was one that kept coming back time and time again. In fact, taking the same photo each year was the perfect way to see how much they were both changing and growing older. All it took was three decades to get the final result.
The first of many
Posing for photos with a new baby is something that many families enjoy. After all, a new arrival can be exciting for many more people other than the parents. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and everyone else often want to gather to see the new addition.
Plus, many often say that it takes a village to raise a baby.
Tian Jun and his son, Tian Li, looked inseparable from the moment they met. Li was born back in 1986, and like many new babies, he soon became used to posing for his photo. However, one photo was about to become more important than the others.
Creating the idea
The family were living in Guiyang – a city in southwest China – when they welcomed Li to the family. It wasn’t long before Jun came up with the perfect idea.
He wanted to start a photography project like no other and thought it was the ideal way to make some everlasting memories with his son.
All they needed was a plain background and a camera. Then, they could pose for the same photo every year to mark Li’s birthday. The best bit? Jun decided to keep things as simple as possible. He wanted the picture to be in the same spot and in black and white, so there were no distractions.
Many people say that babies can grow up before we ever realize where the time has gone, and it only took a few photos with his father before Li was about to show Jun how true that could really be.
The toddler was quickly growing, and by 1988, he was already large in his father’s arms compared to the baby they had brought home from the hospital.
As well as growing bigger, toddlers also have a huge amount of learning to do. These are the years that most of us typically learn how to walk and talk as well as discover what we like – and the things that we would rather avoid.
A huge year
It turns out the father and son team had the perfect spot to take their photos. Jun would set up the camera as he posed with Li in his arms against the outside wall of their home.
1989 was no exception. This was also a massive year for the rest of the world.
Two asteroids came closer than ever to Earth and almost wiped us out. That’s not all. 1989 also marked the year that the Berlin Wall was torn down at last, the year that Madonna released her single ‘Like A Prayer’ to the world, and the year that we first got to watch ‘Seinfeld’ and play on a Game Boy.
Becoming a child
Most people can’t remember anything before they are three years old. By the time Li was four, he was happily posing with his father and seemed to be a lot more comfortable.
Perhaps Li was beginning to remember their annual photo? All of a sudden, it looked like Li had gone from a smiling toddler to a child.
He still had a few years before he was about to start school. It appears that Jun wanted to make the most of every moment he had with his son in the meantime. Being an artist meant that Jun knew how to get the perfect angle for each memory.
A new year
It might have been many years since he first started his project, but Jun was determined to power through with his commitment to make memories with his son at the same time every year. Thankfully, it appears as though Li had no problems smiling in front of the camera back in 1991.
It seemed that the rest of the world was having a few issues in 1991 as there were many political debates and treaties being signed across the globe. However, there were also some huge releases. ‘Thelma and Louise,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs’ all hit movie theaters while ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ graced the radio.
Out and about
For the first time since they started the project, Jun and Li were snapped in front of a new background. The white wall was gone and had been replaced by the ocean instead.
The family headed to the beach to celebrate Li’s birthday. Jun thought that it was the perfect place to add to their photo series.
Judging by his wet hair, it seems as though Li was having some fun in the water before he joined his father. Amazingly, in October the same year, Cartoon Network launched for the first time. Plus, McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Beijing.
Finding his look
Meeting a new baby can be incredible. One of the amazing things is seeing how they are a blend of both their mother and father, but did you know that babies will always look more like their father first?
That’s right; for the first two weeks of their lives, babies will resemble their dad before they start to look like both of their parents.
While Li was starting to look more and more like his father every day, 1993 was also a major year for the rest of the world. After all, this was the year that we first got to see two classic movies: ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Jurassic Park.’
Recreating the magic
The ‘90s were filled with plenty of new and exciting things. ‘Friends’ hit the small screen for the first time while Tom Hanks is quickly becoming one of the biggest names in Hollywood thanks to his new release, ‘Forrest Gump.’
As if that wasn’t enough, people try to recreate the magic of Woodstock with the likes of Bob Dylan, Nine Inch Nails, and Green Day as the headline acts.
However, Li and Jun were still hundreds of miles away from the action. Instead of getting caught up with the rest of the world, the pair posed in front of the same white wall as they had done so many times before.
Sharing their work
The world didn’t get to see the snaps until Li decided to post them online. He headed to a social media platform known as WeChat, where Li shared the many photos he has taken with his father over the years.
The series got over 100,000 clicks in just one day.
It turns out the rest of the world was making some huge advancements back in 1995, too. Microsoft released Windows 95 and was about to take over homes across the planet. Plus, a spacecraft headed for Jupiter while people back on Earth got to enjoy the wonder that was the DVD.
Hitting the net
The year was 1996 and Li was celebrating a huge birthday as he turned 10 years old. At last, he had reached double figures!
Li has spent the last few years at school, but he still had time to pose with his dad every year to continue their incredible photo album.
While Li and Jun were celebrating in China, everyone else was rapidly starting to learn about the rest of the world. At the beginning of the year, just one million people used the internet. 12 months later, that number rose to 10 million. The internet was still so small. Little did Li and Jun know that they would one day be stars of the web.
Plenty of changes
For many years, Li and Jun had pulled the same pose. Jun held his son on his right hip while the father and son team looked into the camera.
Not only were the photos a way for the family to see how much Li was changing over the years, but it was also a chance to witness Jun’s changes, too.
Gone was the dad’s thick head of hair and beard that he had sported when his son was born all those years ago. Now, he was used to a clean-shaven look complete with a shorter haircut to match. However, the photograph still stayed the same.
1998 was a significant year for this father and son team. Li turned 12, which meant that he was getting ever closer to becoming an adult.
Plus, this was the first year that he was too large to be carried by his father. Thankfully, the pair found a way to work around the issue.
Li merely stood by his father’s side instead. It was just before the turn of the century, and the world was making huge advancements. 19 nations forbid human cloning while Google hit the internet, Windows 98 was released, and the iMac was unveiled by Apple Computer.
The beginning of the change
It was just before the turn of the century and many people were panicking about Y2K.
It looked as though all of those computer and technological advancements had gone too far as people started to fear that robots and tech were about to take over.
They really did have to party like it was 1999 just in case no one lived to see the new century. Amazingly, the panic didn’t seem to affect Li’s growth spurt that took place the same year. All of a sudden, he could practically look his father in the eye for the first time in his life.
A third wheel
Everything was about to change in the year 2000 – and not in the way that people thought.
Planes didn’t fall from the sky, and there were no random missile attacks thanks to the millennium bug. However, it did help to pave the way for the world of gaming.
Cell phones came complete with Snake for the first time, while the likes of Nintendo were in full swing as they continued to sell thousands of games to budding fans. 2000 was also the year that reality TV started to dominate our screens and pop music was at an all-time high. Li and Jun even celebrated with a puppy in their snap.
The one and only
There is only one photo that the father and son decide to pose the other way around, and 2001 was the year of change. The pair haven’t admitted why they chose to stand in each other’s space.
Perhaps they wanted to spice things up? Maybe they had forgotten how to pose for the photo after all this time?
Whatever the case, it appears as though it wasn’t a change that was set to last. Jun and Li posed for their annual snap of Li’s 15th birthday. While many teenagers would be out with their friends, it seems as though Li wanted to make sure he got the vital things done first.
Hitting many milestones
There are many milestones that parents look forward to over the years.
From taking their first step to saying their first word and bringing home a macaroni and paste masterpiece to heading off to school, it seems as though there’s no end to the number of memories – even if they do all appear to pass by at record speed.
However, there are some that many parents wish will never come. Growing up means that it might not be long before youngsters want to hang out with their friends and have a family of their own instead. 2002 marked the year that Li officially stood taller than his dad.
Changing things up
It seems this father and son team are determined to take their annual snap no matter where they are in the world or what they are doing.
2003 was the first year the pair decided to pose in front of a more decorated background, but they still pulled the same pose to help the photo come to life.
While Jun and Li were enjoying their time in the flashing lights of the camera, some others around the world were tripping up in the dark. That’s right; 2003 was the year that North America suffered the largest blackout in history. More than 50 million houses were left without power.
Thinking to the future
Li finally turned 18 in 2004. This was a significant year for him as Li was about to learn that he had been accepted into the Beijing Film Academy.
The prestigious school has become an important name across the world thanks to their achievements in movie productions over the years.
Five schools make up the entire academy where students can learn all about performing arts, sound recording, cinematography, film directing, and even film screenwriting among many other things. It appears that Li has inherited his dad’s love of art over the years and is now putting his own spin on it all.
Finding the time
Believe it or not, but there is a good reason that Li and Jun had posed without a t-shirt over the years. That’s all thanks to the fact that it was always hot on Li’s birthday.
The pair were trying to keep as cool as possible and decided that it was the perfect tradition to uphold all these years.
Although he was no studying at college, Li still found time to return home and pose with his father. The best bit? 2005 was also the same year that YouTube was founded, giving up and coming filmmakers a new platform to share their work.
Losing a great
It appears as though Li was once like many youngsters as he changed his hair each year as he tried to find a style that suited him the best.
The annual photo also showed how Jun was changing over the years. The lines started to show, and his dark hair was looking a little lighter than it had before.
While the father and son team were celebrating, many other people around the world were mourning. Jun and Li posed for their photo the same year that Steve Irwin passed away. The nature enthusiast was diving with stingrays when he was tragically struck in the chest with one of their barbs.
Time to celebrate
Back in 2007, it looked as though it was smiles all around for the father and son – even if they did try their best to hide their facial expressions in their photo.
Most of the snaps have all featured the same neutral face from both Li and Jun. However, things were a little more cheery away from the camera as Li finally graduated from film school.
His new degree meant that the world was his oyster. Li was just 21 years old at the time. He has since made good use of all of that studying as Li now works as a film director from his new home in Beijing.
Li never thought much about the photos. In fact, he used to pose with his father because he knew that Jun was making a project, and he wanted to be a part of it.
It wasn’t long before the snaps became a tradition that he couldn’t ignore.
While they haven’t always been able to take the photos in the exact same location, Li has continually tried to make time to visit his family to make sure that he can pose with his dad. To some, it seems like something so small. However, to Li and Jun, the pictures are now a massive part of their life and their memories.
A milestone year
While the photos were first taken to document Li’s changes, that all changed in 2009. That’s because Jun hit a milestone birthday: his 50th. This wasn’t the only milestone to take place this year.
2009 was also the same year that former President Barack Obama was elected into the White House.
The movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ also hit the big screen. The film had a $15 million budget and used handheld cameras and children from the slums in Mumbai to create one of the most loved movies of all time. It won a host of awards as well as grossing almost $400 million at the box office.
One major year
As each year comes to an end, many find themselves looking at the most popular stories from the last 12 months. However, there was one that seemed to dominate most of the world: the Chilean miners.
33 people were working in the copper-gold mine in Chile when they suddenly found themselves trapped 2,000 feet underground.
The cave-in caught the eye of the world as many were on the edge of their seats as one billion tuned in to watch their rescue. Thankfully, Li and Jun continued to document their year with another picture to add to the growing collection.
A busy year
By 2011, Li and Jun were preparing to take their 26th photo. Amazingly, they had never missed a year, but there had been small changes to their poses over the years.
The pair were sat on the edge of a desk for their latest photo in the album. There was still plenty going on in the rest of the world, too.
The hit series ‘Game of Thrones’ first hit the small screen and soon went on to become one of the highest-rated shows of all time. Plus, Prince William and Kate tied the knot, while we had to say “goodbye” to Steve Jobs and Elizabeth Taylor.
Tying the knot
Did you know that studies show couples who have a few things in common and plenty of differences often last a lot longer?
Research also concludes that couples who were best friends before they married are more likely to have longer marriages.
While there are many aspects that can make or break a marriage, it looked as though Li was about to learn all about them thanks to his ceremony in 2012. Although he was busy planning his wedding and starting a brand new family of his own, Li still had a moment to pose with his father. Nothing could stand in his way – for now.
In 2013, the pair decided for a role reversal. Jun had carried Li for so many of their early photos. That was until his son was too large to pick up anymore. However, Jun was aging, and Li was still growing stronger.
The father and son team opted to reverse their roles for this snap as Li carried Jun on his back.
It was like completing the circle of life. Sadly, this was the final photo for two years. Li admits that he was busy with his new life and was living in the US for many months while his father was still in China. They missed the 2014 photo, and Li says that he still gets upset.
A new addition
Thankfully, the pair reunited once again in 2015 as Li and Jun were joined by another.
That’s right; Li bought his new son, Timothy, to the photoshoot. The pair agree that he is the perfect addition to their photos as it shows how the family is continuing to grow.
Li admits that he never realized how much the images meant until the rest of the internet got their chance to enjoy them all. Now, he says that he can see how they are more than just some pictures. The project is a journey from boy to man and an art project that could only ever be completed by time.