If you have been following Hiptoro’s article for quite some time now, you must have probably heard about British photographer Chris Porsz. He is popular for his amazing project called “Reunions” which documents the lives of people in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Most of you would think that he takes random street photographs of people he has had encounters, but you’ll be surprised to know that Chris has been working on this project for over 40 years already.

What makes Reunions so special is that, Chris captures the same people, posing in the same places years after several years from the date when the original photo was snapped. The initial photos go back to as late as the 1970s and for the last fifteen months, Chris has been diligently working on part 2 of his “Reunions” project.

In his photography book titled “Reunions 2,” Chris wrote, “For many, seeing a snapshot of their younger selves brought back happy memories of a day they had forgotten. Lots were thrilled to have a photo of themselves at a special moment in time that would otherwise not have been recorded.




My sincere thanks to those once random strangers, and now my friends, who made Reunions 2 possible by generously allowing me to share their fascinating lives with you.”

#1 Mr Gino (Original 1980 – Reunion May 2021)

Ice cream seller Genesio Borrillo (aka Gino) is pictured in Cromwell Road serving Zahida Parveen. He bought an ice cream van when he moved to Peterborough from Italy and travelled around the city in the summer selling ice creams. In 1992 he set up a pasta shop in Peterborough, which he still runs with his wife Clara and daughter Lucia. He has three children and four grandchildren. Zahida said: “I used to live near Cromwell Road and I’d often buy an ice cream from Gino, I usually had a cone with strawberry drizzle and sometimes a chocolate flake. I think I was about seven in the photo.” Zahida still lives in Peterborough and has three children and a grandson. She added: “It was lovely having my picture taken again.” Gino and Zahida’s 1980 picture appeared in Reunions 1 but with just Gino outside his pasta shop in 2014 as the girl could not be found. Chris added: “It was wonderful to find Zahida and to be able to reunite her again with Gino in the same location 41 years later.” Thanks to Israr for the ice cream van.

Hiptoro reached out to a talented photographer with a few questions regarding his profession and his technique. First, we started by asking him how he became a photographer and how he came up with the idea for the project “Reunions.”

“I picked up my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, in 1972 to record a crazy 6,000 three-week hitchhiking trip across Europe and North Africa with my girlfriend, now wife Lesley. The images were terrible and so I got a better camera to take images of my family and I quickly caught the photography bug.

I dropped out of my social worker studies and became a hospital A&E porter for thirteen years. On my days off in the early eighties, I roamed the streets seeking inspiration and capturing everyday life by pointing a camera at society which was much easier and more satisfying than writing long boring essays. I found it quite magical as I still do that by simply pressing a button I can capture moments forever and fulfill some creative urge.”

#2 Ford Cortina (Original 1980 – Reunion June 2021)

Paul Smith was photographed standing in front of a Ford Cortina in Cobden Street, Peterborough in 1980. He worked as a porter at Peterborough District Hospital for 12 years from 1978, some of that time with Chris Porsz. 

#3 Carrot And Stick (Original 1981 – Reunion July 2021)

Bernard, who lives near Stamford in Lincolnshire, has been married to Irene for 58 years and has two daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He has enjoyed oil painting for the last 30 years.  

“Self-taught, I was inspired by the social documentary and street work of Bert Hardy and Bill Brandt in Picture Post, Harold Evan’s seminal book ‘Pictures on a Page’, and of course the photojournalism of my heroes Robert Capa and Don Mc Cullin. In 1986 I got busy with raising three children and a new paramedic career. I fell out of love with photography and hardly picked up for a camera for a quarter of a century.

It was an age of protest and counter-culture so I headed for the busy streets rather than middle-class suburbia. I was always looking for action, protest, the dispossessed, eccentric characters such as the punks, teds, skinheads, and rockers who stood out from the madding crowd. Regrettably, I was more interested in the people rather than the backgrounds and I now realize the social context is crucial too.”

#4 Ever Ready (Original 1980 – Reunion August 2020)

Brothers Adalat Khan and Amir Baz ran a newsagent in Cobden Street/ Cromwell Road in Peterborough from 1979 to 1996 and were photographed in 1980. They are now retired and still live in Peterborough. Chris added: “As you can see from their faces they loved getting back behind the counter and wanted to remain to serve a few more customers.”

#5 Red Hot (Original Circa 1981 – Reunion August 2020)

Tim Davies worked as a blacksmith in a forge at Thorpe Hall (now a Sue Ryder hospice) in Peterborough for five years in the early 1980s. He said: “It was something I always wanted to do, and the opportunity came up so I took it. I learnt on the job and loved it all. It was a delightful and very satisfying skill to learn.” 

We also wanted to know what made him realize he wanted to photograph all of these people again years later.

“Fortunately my long-lost passion was rekindled in 2009 after I sent a few of those images to my local paper, the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, and I was amazed when they gave me a weekly column, Paramedic Paparazzo. Readers started recognizing themselves and this was the ‘light bulb’ moment for me to try and meet again for another picture and see what had become of these random strangers. Reunions 1 comprised 134 sets of reunions from such chance encounters and took me around seven years of searching. On publication in 2016, I was overwhelmed by the positive response from around the world as people were fascinated by my unique time capsule and seeing what the passage of time does to us all.”

#6 Fun At The Fair (Original 1985 – Reunion May 2021)

Friends Toni Cray (nee Pignatiello) and Teresa Weston (nee McPartlin) were photographed on the Sizzler at the Town Bridge Fair in Peterborough in 1985. 

#7 Lollipop Lady (Original Circa 1984 – Reunion September 2020)

Gloria Steele loved her job as a lollipop lady at Queen’s Drive School in Dogsthorpe Road in Peterborough. She helped the children cross the road three times a day for seven years during the 1980’s. 

Given how hard of a project “Reunions” is, we what to know about the whole process behind the scenes.

“It was not easy and if you imagine next time you are in a street, just choose random strangers that capture your imagination and take their pictures. Wait for three or four decades to elapse and without any contact details, see if you can find and then persuade them to return to the same place for a second photograph. This is basically what I did and how Reunions 1 and now my sequel Reunions 2 were born.

It was a good thing I took pictures covering all age groups, as many older characters have since died. I took granddads and grandmothers having a fag and a chat on a bench but fortunately babes in prams and teenagers, otherwise, my reunions would simply not exist. Many I could never find as they have moved around the UK, emigrated, fallen out with their former friends or family, or frustratingly declined to take part, but against all the odds and with serendipity on my side, I achieved my quest. I had many setbacks and false leads along the way, including a round trip of 200 miles to be told, ‘sorry, it’s not me ’ but the successes kept me going.”

#8 Four On A Bench (Original 1985 – Reunion September 2020)

Friends Johnny Crawford, Trudy Larkinson, Sandra Wilson-Bailey and Tom Bray (left to right) were sitting on a bench in Bridge Street, Peterborough, when Chris saw them in 1985.

#9 Owl And Burger (Original 1984 – Reunion August 2020)

Joe Wright was often seen around Peterborough with pet Barn Owl Rocky perched on his shoulder and Chris took a photo of him at a country and western show in 1984. 

“Some I found by million to one chance while working as a paramedic. (I retired in 2020) A man dials 999 at 3 am and opens his door to me having a heart attack. With treatment, he perked up enough to say I had taken his picture with his mates in a derelict house over thirty years ago. I thought I had won the lottery and considered turning up the oxygen!

Another 999 call where a lady had fallen down the stairs but fortunately she was okay so I showed her husband an image of a boy at a gate that I had been searching for. Amazingly he recognized him and as he pointed out of his shop window to show me where he lived, a man turned the corner! It was him and led to the reunion over three decades later!

I had no intention of doing this sequel as I believed I had exhausted my collection but after trawling through my filing ‘system’ I discovered some hidden gems. From the spring of 2020 onwards, I made constant appeals and repeatedly posted around 300 of these images on Facebook and Twitter. To my great surprise, I immediately started receiving hundreds of messages and lots of midnight oil was burnt just trying to keep up with it all.”

#10 Mates (Original 1982 – Reunion April 2021)

Mates (left to right) Romell Yearwood, Ryan Wiltshire (now Rayan Abdel Raheem) and Stephen Moore are pictured on Cathedral Square in 1982. Mark Allan (wearing cap) moved away and was not available for the reunion picture.

#11 Frogs, Vikings And Gluttons (Original 1989 – Reunion August 2020)

Paul Yates was a street cleaner in Peterborough for 20 years until he was medically pensioned in 2006. He was photographed using the “Green Frog” cleaning machine in Lower Bridge Street in 1989. 

“Unfortunately, my sense of urgency was not always shared, and it was frustrating to wait months for replies to some of my appeals. Inevitably, planned reunions were further delayed or canceled due to illness, including strokes, heart attacks, Covid or accidents. My maxim of seizing the moment before it has gone was crucial in keeping up the momentum and if a character said: ‘next month’ I would say: ‘how about tomorrow’? Compounded by the pandemic, it became a race against time before the next lockdown and, although very challenging, I was a happy man when over some weekends I completed up to a dozen reunions.

When characters were reluctant and camera shy, I would not just easily give up as my rare images were so important to me, and with lots of cajoling and persuasion from myself or their families and friends, they often reconsidered and were glad they did. It was also important to me that those who had emigrated would not miss out and, in spite of my technophobia, Zoom call reunions from California to New Zealand and Germany ensured distance would be no barrier.”

#12 Pyschobillies (Original June 1983 – Reunion August 2020)

Four lads (left to right) Greg Brown, Dave Kennedy, Dave Baines and Neil Tucker were photographed in Cathedral Square in Peterborough. They have all stayed in touch over the years.

#13 Lesley And Chris Porsz (Original 1971 – Reunion January 2021)

Chris was a student, aged 18, and Lesley a clerical officer at BT, aged 20, when they were pictured in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph in 1971 after hitchhiking around 6000 miles across Europe and North Africa in just three weeks. They were married in 1976 and have three children and seven grandchildren.

“When the big Reunion Day finally arrived after months of planning, it was often nerve-wracking as so much could go wrong and did. Sometimes I would have to rush due to horrendous weather or occasionally characters just didn’t show up without any warning or explanation. One reunion had to be postponed when firefighters en route to us were diverted twice, to rescue a cow and later to a deer stuck in the mud. I was so relieved when the motorcycle cops made it without being called away. I could only relax once the photos were safely in my camera and even then I would sometimes be unhappy with the result, so where possible, and if my subjects agreed, I would try again to do better in a later session.”

#14 Scoop Purchase (Original 1980 – Reunion April 2021)

Brothers Mark and Matt Court (left to right) were photographed eating chips in a pram while their mum went shoe shopping in Bridge Street in Peterborough. Matt said: “We had no idea the picture had been taken, a friend saw it on Facebook and recognised me. 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.”

#15 Dad And Daughters (Original 1994 – Reunion April 2021)

Dr Richard Scott was photographed with his three daughters in Bridge Street, Peterborough in 1994. He said: “I think it was a Saturday and my wife would have been working in the hospital and I would have taken the girls out in Peterborough.” Richard worked as a GP and also did endoscopy at Peterborough District Hospital in the evenings and at weekends.

 

Chris has clicked so many pictures on the streets, that we couldn’t resist but ask whether any of the people in the photograph remembered him at all.

“A few did but the majority could not and a lot of my pictures were candid. I have a terrible memory but it’s funny I remember taking most of my pictures.”

We also wanted to know how people who were in these photos felt having finally seen them published after so many years.

“They were over the moon as were their friends and families when they finally saw the published book. Some reunions were bittersweet where characters had died young and parents were saddened but pleased to see images they never knew existed. It was very poignant when family members generously stood in for them and the book would be a permanent tribute to their loved ones in happier times.

The best bits were to see old friends, old soldiers who had not seen each other for over three decades united again and with me too. So it was very emotional with some tears, hugs, and kisses. Some friends and siblings who had fallen out were talking again and it even led to a school reunion. Once strangers to me, they have become firm friends.”

#16 Andy Ireland (Original 1981 – Reunion 2020)

Andy Ireland dressed as a chimney sweep for a fancy dress competition at the Gladstone Street carnival in 1981 and today he is a former physiotherapist to Sir Andy Murray and now works as a consultant at a clinic in central London.

#17 Snoggers! (Original Christmas Eve 1980 – Reunion October 2020)

Rhyder Hunt and Julie Gracey (nee Davies) were snapped snogging in Cathedral Square in Peterborough on Christmas Eve 1980. They were part of a group who hung out together at scooter rallies and liked Northern Soul.

We couldn’t resist asking Chris whether he had an experience when he was moved by any incident in the past.

“Reuniting characters that I never dreamed of finding and had almost given up on after searching for so many years. The community spirit willing me to succeed and people’s desire to help me find people and who made it all possible.

Lots did not want to take part or were very reluctant, which was frustrating, so it was a really refreshing change when many were so positive, enthusiastic, and said felt privileged to be part of such a unique project. It was impressive when one character drove a round trip of 700 miles in his little Polo car from Glasgow because he had promised me he would be there to be reunited with his mates. Others came from the four corners of the UK.”

#18 Tea Break (Original Circa 1983 – Reunion September 2020)

Nurses Karen Belson, Maggie Moore, Anita Downs and Jane Kew (left to right) The friends all worked nights so their tea break would often be around 1am.

#19 Madhouse (Original 1991 – Reunion August 2021)

Emily Wright (nee Adams) and her brother Jimmy Adams are pictured sitting in the doorway of the Madhouse shop in Bridge Street in Peterborough in 1991. Emily and Jimmy grew up in Werrington Village with their two other siblings and attended The King’s School in Peterborough.

Finally, we asked Chris whether he had enough material to create part 3 of the series in the future.

“Unfortunately, I did not take that many pictures back in the day and many got lost or destroyed in my terrible ‘filing system.’ Many were ruined by basic mistakes in my amateurish hands in the camera and dark room so I was lucky that enough survived for my two books. Never say no, though! I started again in 2009 so maybe give it another thirty years in 2051 as I will only be 98 and can always bolt a camera to my Zimmer frame! Perhaps to be on the safe side, make that 2041!”

#20 Boy To Man (Original 1982 – Reunion February 2021)

Mohammed Mustafa was seen behind the wall of his home, 64 Cromwell Road, in 1982 when he was about four. He now works in Tesco’s warehouse in Peterborough and has five children. 

#21 Famous Five (Original 1980 – Reunion May 2021)

Friends Nasar Ali (left), Ali Shauqat (middle), Mohammed Shanawaz (right), Khalid Mahmood (crouching on left) and Mohammed Riza (crouching on right) are pictured by the Gladstone Street sign where they all lived. They returned for a reunion photo in 2010 but Khalid Mahmood was not available and Mohammed Shanawaz’s twin brother.

#22 Emma And Abbey (Original 1996 – Reunion March 2021)

Friends Abbey Gordon and Chris Porsz’s daughter, Emma Porsz, are pictured shopping in Westgate in Peterborough in 1996. 

#23 Fur Coats (Original 1980 – Reunion May 2021)

Amanda Bayford (nee Phillips), Pamela Albanezi (nee Bevilacqua), Lisa Springthorpe, Carmelina January (nee Bevilacqua), and Karen Pycroft (left to right) were out on the town in Peterborough wearing their fur coats in 1980. 

#24 Flares (Original 1980 – Reunion June 2021)

Friends Muhammad Bashir and Abdul Karim (aka Uncle Paloo), were pictured walking past a house in Gladstone Street, Peterborough in 1980. The men both lived nearby. Abdul worked in the brickyards and a paper mill close to Peterborough in the 1970s and later went into car sales. He has been in poor health for over a decade, lives in Nottingham, and has nine children.

#25 Sister Bambridge (Original Circa 1980 – Reunion August 2020)

Elizabeth (Bess) Bambridge was a Senior Sister in the A&E department at Peterborough District Hospital for 40 years. She worked at the hospital at the same time as Chris was a casualty porter and he captured a photo of her suturing a patient, a very common procedure after road accidents.

#26 Buggy Kids And Mr T (Original 1987 – Reunion May 2021)

Nathan and Lisa Yates were photographed in a double buggy in Peterborough when they were aged two and three, eating crisps while out shopping with their mum. The siblings used to live near the city centre. Nathan, who works for Peterborough City Council, now lives in nearby Farcet and has a partner and four children. 

#27 Wedding Rings (Original 1981 – Reunion September 2020), Howard And Sharon

Howard and Sharon Marshall (nee Bird) were spotted by Chris browsing wedding rings at Ernest Jones on Cathedral Square in Peterborough in the Spring of 1981. 

#28 No Parking (Original 1978 – Reunion September 2020)

Traffic warden Jayantilal Kotecha was seen writing a parking ticket in King Street in Peterborough in 1978. He was born in Uganda in April 1939 and came to London in 1971 before the President of Uganda, Idi Amin, expelled Ugandan Asians in 1972. 

#29 Ducking Stool (Original 1985 – Reunion July 2021)

Cheryl Geeves was pictured plunging into cold water in 1985 while her friend Pam Jackman (nee Huddlestone) awaited her turn. Cheryl said: “In the early eighties the big event in my husband’s household was the Deeping show where my late father-in-law, Jack Geeves, raised money for the junior section of the Deeping Angling Club. My childhood friend Pam and I used to go on a stall where the public threw balls to try and duck us into a pool of water, which was great fun.” 

#30 Brothers On The Wall (Original Circa 1982 – Reunion July 2021)

Brothers Shujah and Zia Saklain were seen playing on their neighbour’s wall in Gladstone Street in Peterborough in the early 80s. They moved to the road when Shujah was three and stayed there for 14 years. They both still live in Peterborough. Shujah works as a driving instructor, runs humanitarian charity, Children of Adam, and teaches boxing, whilst Zia works as a car trader. “It was great fun climbing up on the wall again but strange to be back at our house again after so many years,” said Shujah. Unfortunately the other two boys could not be found to join Shujah and Zia on the wall again.