Yesterday, whilst at a Travel Massive meet-up, I took part in what can only be described as an awesome photo project which is set to go viral. The brainchild of Mario Cacciottolo, a BBC journalist based in London, Someone Once Told Me has a simple aim: to document those words of wisdom (or anger, or affection) that have stayed with you and been etched into your brain. Having six years of experience under his belt, Mario is a great photographer with an eye for detail, but he admits it wasn’t always this effortless. “When I first started, I had this really old camera from communist Germany and I didn’t even know what an aperture was,” he says candidly. He soon learned the ropes, posting one photo a day on his website for five years, which built a huge back-catalogue of personal experiences and memories brought to life under the lens.
The unique aspect that I really love about this project is that each photo has its own MP3 sound clip, where you can hear the subject speaking about why they chose their particular quote and what it means to them. In my case, I went for the words of one of my secondary school teachers, who was my head of year, and gave an unexpectedly great speech when we left to go out into the big, wide world. Having felt I’d outgrown the school years ago, I wasn’t expecting to be moved by anything she said, but I, along with some of my even less sentimental friends, was soon bawling my eyes out, feeling like I wasn’t ready to let go of the people I’d met and the place where I’d done so much growing up. She ended with this: “You have your wings – now fly.”
You can find out more about the story behind my quote when it goes live on the website. As I’m not the world’s most photogenic person, I think Mario did a great job in making me look presentable (I’ve most recently been compared to Jenny Eclair – and not a younger version, the fifty-something woman herself. This was apparently a chat-up line… Make of it what you will).
For me, SOTM draws elements of the very successful Post Secret, which asked people to write a secret on a postcard and send it anonymously to an address, but this project has the added bonus of exploring the people behind the revelations. If there’s a quote that resonates with you then you can find out if that person has been through a similar situation; even Mario himself found that he drew parallels between his own life and that of a girl who wrote down her ex-boyfriend’s simple but cutting words: ‘I just don’t like you as much anymore.’
There’s that brilliant feeling of unity that you get from reading something you can connect to your own life, which I think is why this project will hit home with so many of us. It also acknowledges that, for all of the spiel about living in the moment, we’re only human and we all can’t help living in the past sometimes; a bit like elephants, we never forget. I definitely feel that it’s good to be able to reflect back on the past, however cringey it might be sometimes, because you’ve ultimately learned things that have shaped how you are, even if it’s the cold, hard truth (‘Don’t keep falling for borderline alcoholics’ springs to mind, or ‘You should maybe avoid that ridiculously narrow car park where you always scrape the car’, for example – both have been invaluable to me).
If you would like to get involved in SOTM then now’s your chance. There are loads of ways to contact Mario, so you don’t have an excuse not to participate if you’ve got something to say! He’ll also be travelling the world from June 2013 for a year, so you can see if he’s visiting anywhere nearby. Go and tell your story.