While time traveling to hang out with your younger self may only seem possible in movies like The Adam Project, a real-life photographer and musician in Montreal has come pretty close to pulling it off. Unlike in the film, Conor Nickerson didn’t bring together his adult and younger selves to save the world—he simply thought it would be an interesting art project.
Nickerson got the idea to travel back in time using Photoshop five years ago when he was visiting home and looking through old photos. He had recently created a series titled Then and Now, where he retook old photographs taken around Montreal and superimposed a current image over it. As he told Gizmodo via email, the series gave viewers the option of “being able to slide back and forth between the past and present.”
He thought doing a similar thing with his childhood photos would be a good Photoshop challenge because it would take a lot of fine-tuning to make the photos look realistic.
Inspired, the photographer got to work, and spent around six months on his Childhood series. Nickerson told Gizmodo that he was originally just going to share the project with family and friends, but decided one day to put it on the subreddit r/pics in 2017. His post went viral, and his photos appeared in news outlets in the U.S., Canada, and the UK.
Meanwhile, on 2017 Reddit, users also delighted in Nickerson’s project. People called him a time traveler, while others suggested he Photoshop himself into his parents’ life events next. The original target audience, his family, enjoyed the photos as well. In fact, Nickerson feels like his grandparents have told everyone they met in the last five years about the Childhood photo series.
As with all viral stories, over time, Nickerson’s project faded away into internet history. However, as all of the extremely online know, viral internet moments that strike chords have a knack of doing it again. Recently, the Montreal photographer did a throwback post on the same subreddit, r/pics.
“Five years ago, I used Photoshop to go back to my childhood. Here’s me and myself around 1997-2005,” Nickerson wrote.
The post exploded in popularity once more, earning almost as many upvotes as it did five years ago (64,600 versus 73,100). Nickerson said it was great to see that the photos still resonated with people, pointing out that some found the series to be fun and lighthearted, while others said it “made them tear up, feel melancholic, or made them think of their own families or younger selves.”
“At a time when we’re so divided about so many things, the responses to the photos have been a good reminder that we’re all just grown up children, that we all share the same human experience of growing older and trying to figure out how to live in the world,” the photographer told Gizmodo.
As far as what he’s learned from Childhood, Nickerson said he’s realized that you never know what one thing might mean to someone else. The photographer explained that he never thought his childhood photos could have such a big impact on others. The response from the public reminded him of how art is capable of reaching people, its potential for healing, and how fortunate he is to be able to make it, he said.
Considering how many people joked that he was a time traveler, Gizmodo asked Nickerson what he would say to his younger self if he could truly go back to the late 90s and early aughts and hang out with him.
“As far as what I would say, it’s hard to give just one answer. I am able now to recognize some of the things, both good and bad, from my childhood that led me to become who I am now,” he said. “I think I would ask little me about himself and just listen to what he had to say.”
Click through the slides to check out Nickerson’s full Childhood series, featuring himself with himself on a train, himself with himself dressed as spies, and himself with himself celebrating his grandma’s birthday, along with many more photos.
You can follow him on Instagram at @ConorNickerson.