A little girl found a cute picture of herself as a newborn being cuddled by her father on the sofa. She then asked if her mother could repeat the picture, with father and daughter in the same cozy positions snuggling down together. The family, from Hong Kong, have carried out this photo tradition every year since then, attracting millions of views from around the world.
The little girl’s father Wong Ting-man has a longstanding interest in photography but of the more old-fashioned kind from the pre-digital era. The reason for this is his love of the instant camera, which was hugely popular in the 1980s and 1990s for printing an image without the need to send away the film for processing. He’s been collecting instamatic cameras since 1992, which in a digital age reveals how much photography has changed.
Back in 2012 Time Out reported that the 49-year-old held the world record for the largest “instant camera” collection. Interviewed in the April of that year, Ting-man revealed that he had more than 1,000 of the devices. “In a world overwhelmed by digital pictures, a photo that can be held in your hand is especially precious,” he said.
The collector’s first Kodak camera, which was given to him as an eight-year-old, clicked with him for life, you might say. He told Time Out that he’d had a remote-controlled car and the camera handed to him at the same time. He soon lost interest in the car, but as time went on his fascination for his camera grew. However, film for it was so costly that it brought a temporary end to his hobby.
“I took a lot of instant photos but the film was expensive at that time, so my mum hid it away,” he explained. Years later, when he was in his early 20s, the camera resurfaced while he was in the process of moving house and was putting together all his possessions. Ting-man instantly recalled the fun he had had with the camera and was overjoyed.
So his love of the instant camera was brought back into focus. At this time, he was a following a career in graphic design, which in some way opened his mind to the wonders that Polaroid and similar brands had to offer, according to Time Out. Then, the enthusiast started what he admitted was a compulsive shopping habit. “It was like I couldn’t stop myself. Every time I see a cheap instant camera, I have to buy it,” he confessed.
Soon, the avid collector was vlogging about some of his more unusual finds. Back in 2010 he posted a video of himself revealing the workings of an old low-tech camera, a masamune, which has a front and back literally clipped together. Made by a Japanese company, he demonstrates how to take pictures by aiming it “like a gun”.
In 2011 Ting-man was back demonstrating another vintage model, the YC 75X100 from the 1980s, which he describes as “a piece of rusty metal.” The video is accompanied by a man singing the words, “I love cameras like a fat boy who loves chocolate cake.” Presumably it’s an acknowledgement that with such an extensive collection of cameras, Ting-man has been a tad overindulgent.
The camera, made by a company in Shanghai, was apparently used to take pictures for tourists. Ting-man explains that the photographer would use this type of camera fixed to a huge tripod, and in those days would have made quite a quite a good living. He laughs at the end and says it costs him vast sums of money that must be kept a secret – a possible reference to his wife, Grace.
It was Grace who actually took the first picture of Ting-man and their daughter Tiffany back in 2008, which sparked what was to become a yearly tradition and earn them worldwide recognition. In the original image, Tiffany was just a napping newborn cradled in her father’s arms. In a similarly sleepy pose, dad reclined on the sofa nestling by two large pillows on a beige sofa.
As Ting-man explained to the Daily Mail in May 2018, his wife took the picture of him and their daughter after coming out of the shower. She had thought the scene was comical, he told the newspaper. The father-of-one remembered being exhausted upon returning home from his job as a documentary producer and was winding down.
Recalling the scene, he explained that it was just a moment where father and daughter were snuggling down both feeling peaceful. “I was very tired. I had probably just changed my daughter’s nappy, and was taking a rest on the sofa. She was just sleeping by my side,” he said of the now widely viewed original image that was to begin an endearing ten-year tradition.
After the 2008 shot, there was a gap of five years before the next picture was taken. Tiffany, now five, found the image and thought it was “cute.” She then wanted to have the same picture taken again, relaxing with her father on the sofa. Mom agreed and recreated the scene, although the subjects were of course now a few years older.
The Wong’s photo album was eventually posted on Chinese social media and began trending as it attracted views and heartfelt responses. Millions would look at the family’s unique picture gallery where the setting and poses were exactly the same every year. The little girl would grow rapidly into a ten-year-old, while her father would age only slowly as he headed towards 50.
Although Ting-man told the Daily Mail that the images weren’t that special, it seemed many people worldwide disagreed with his modest statement. Indeed, the images have been seen by in excess of seven million people. The website Icepop then reprinted the images in June 2018, and they again earned plenty of praise.
Icepop writer William Gardner is clearly impressed by what the family has achieved. “This family has certainly captured a cute string of memories to look back on in the future!” he wrote. And Gardner concluded his piece on the Wong’s ten-year photo project by adding, “The results of their years-long photography project are as revealing as they are precious!”
But what do the images actually reveal? Well, it seems that people respond to them in different ways. A poster from Los Angeles, using the name “backfires,” responded to the Daily Mail article stating that he felt the man was loving and affectionate. But to others, the seven pictures spanning a decade allowed them to view the process of ageing.
The fact that the only things changing in the picture are the appearance of the father and daughter has been noted. A commenter called Lilian Yau saw the passing years bringing two of them closer together in a touching way. “Such a loving family, a bonding moment over a decade,” she wrote beneath a YouTube video that tells the family’s story.
However, the first picture of the series taken in 2008 does contain a clue about an important message behind the photos that the Wong family were keen to get across. In the corner of the room a pet cage can be seen, seemingly to transport the family’s pat cat. Tabby “Left Thigh” has had part of her back leg removed. Meanwhile, the dog is a 13-year-old dachshund.
The family rescued the animals from a nearby vets, and they’ve starred in the pictures ever since. Although the animals add to the cozy scene, the pet-loving father explained that there is a much bigger reason why their cat and dog are part of the scene. In his interview with the Daily Mail, Ting-man said that in Asian culture there is a belief that keeping pets can be dangerous for pregnant women.
Ting-man said that as a result many people in China get rid of their pets when a mother becomes pregnant. However, research has shown that cats do not pose a danger to pregnant women. The charity Animal Asia is trying to change such attitudes towards animals, but there is still a lucrative dog meat trade in China. Historically, this has meant some of these animals are seen as commodities rather than pets and are often mistreated.
Animal Asia also points out that pets are often not valued in China. “Life for dogs and cats in China is dangerous,” its website explains. The charity has stepped in to rescue animals who have suffered cruelty, such as being burned with scalding water, from those who unfortunately view the creatures as “pests” rather than furry family friends.
In September 2018 Chinese media reported that a man in Chongqing, China, who believed animals could cause harm to his pregnant wife went to extreme measures to get rid of their two pets. After rowing with his spouse, he threw the cat and dog out of their tower block to their deaths. Although most Chinese people wouldn’t go that far, it’s attitudes like this that the Wong family want to change.
In fact, there are no animal cruelty laws in China, unlike many western countries. Ting-man told the Daily Mail that showing furry members of his family relaxing alongside his growing daughter will hopefully put across an important message about holding onto your pets. The animals are still with them ten years later, and the bond is apparent.
“We have [had] at least two pets throughout my wife’s pregnancy and 10 years past. My daughter has never been admitted into hospital once,” Ting-man said. Despite pressure from his in-laws to dispense with the cat and dog, he stood firm on his beliefs that the animals posed no threat. Moreover, the dachshund and Left Hind have since gained a big online following.
The Wong family’s rescue pets have grown from sleek animals to perhaps more filled-out and homely creatures. However, many have commented that the pets’ continued presence is touching. Despite the cat’s disabilities, she remained part of the family, which doesn’t often happen according to Animals Asia..
Writing on The Animal Rescue Site, Matthew Russell has described the affection that the Wong family have shown to their animals. “Tiffany Wong and her father Wong Ting-man have been posing for the same photograph ever since she was a baby,” he wrote. “Tiffany snuggled in her father’s left arm, the family dog on his legs, and the cat getting its head scratched by Mr. Wong’s right.”
Russell pointed out that having the same animals in every photo shows they are well-looked after, which ties in with The Animal Rescue Site’s own core concerns. The rescue charity helps around eight million abandoned pets each year and has championed the Wongs for showing their animals compassion and “good care.”
Goodfullness.net blogger Timothy Roberts has stated that the family are big trendsetters. Retelling the story behind the Wongs’ images, he wrote, “What is perhaps even more interesting is the fact that they were able to share these wonderful pictures with the world. Social media has really given us the opportunity to share a part of our heart with others.”
Roberts seemed to be suggesting it’s a craze we should all get involved with, as it has made such a “wonderful” mark on the world. He added, “Not only is this something wonderful for this family, it can be a wonderful tradition in any family. Within just a few years, you will have a legacy to pass on to your children when they are older.”
One respondent on Facebook clearly got the message about how to treat pets. Lilla Hargatai wrote: “OMG I wish all Chinese people treated animals like this family does. It’s so incredibly beautiful to see they are so loving to their pets. People of China let this amazing family be your role model.”
An American family is also celebrating family relationships in a series of Halloween snaps. Like the Wongs’ album, the mother is always behind the camera capturing the family’s special moments. Again, there’s similarity with the Wongs in that the shots feature father and daughter enjoying each other’s company.
However, Julie Peveto’s husband and daughter Tiffany dress up for their pictures, and the images are always taken outside. The outfits are increasingly ghoulish and elaborate. Peveto told Upworthy in October 2016, “Right now it’s something special between dad and daughter.” A celebration of the father-daughter relationship was clearly seen in the Wongs’ images, too.
An intrinsic part of the Pevetos’ photos is the fact that both father and daughter enjoy taking part in this little family history project they’ve helped create. Tiffany asked her mom to take the image that started the series, in fact. In the case of the Peveto family’s Halloween shots, Julie intends to carry on doing them for as long as her daughter enjoys the process.
On Upworthy, Evan Porter praised the Pevetos’ shots for “building amazing memories with their daughter.” The Wong photo tradition has proved to be a popular and valuable project that has perhaps improved with time, as more is revealed each year. For example, the contrast between the Chinese girl’s appearance in the first and the last pictures in the series show the full extent of her growth from a baby to young girl of ten.
Another American family, the Bergerons, have been spreading their own unique brand of festive cheer every year since 2003. They’ve made an annual trip to JC Penny to make photo cards wearing an assortment of costumes to celebrate the fun of being together over the festive vacation. Unlike the Wongs, they don’t go for a natural, relaxed setting but like to use humor and costumes to full effect.
The Bergerons seem to relish trying out new ideas and themes, which have become a big talking point after the family shared the pics on imgur. On Little Things, writer Angel Chan described their costumes as “most bizarre” but also “hilariously entertaining.” She explained that the duo have dressed up as characters ranging from pop stars and TV actors, while also exploring American Gothic styles as well as 1970s and 1980s-inspired looks.
Mike Bergeron summed up their increasingly unusual cards, saying, “I am blessed with a beautiful family and a sense of humor,” In a 2010 shot the couple introduced their baby girl, then later a little boy. These images then serve as important markers of time passing for the family, a bit like the theme in the Wongs’ gallery of pictures.
So, what is the final impression after seeing these albums of family life? Goodfullness.net writer Roberts stated that the final Wong picture “killed” him, showing how affected he was by the completion of their ten-year story. He added, “The picture was taken in the same spot, on the same sofa and with the animals in the same position. This is something that can start family traditions all around the world.” It seems that this is already happening.