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Joy

There are over 30 years between these amazing before-and-after photos.

"It's important for me for my photography to make people smile."

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

Before and after photos separated by 30 years.




Chris Porsz was tired of studying sociology.

As a university student in the 1970s, he found the talk of economics and statistics completely mind-numbing. So instead, he says, he roamed the streets of his hometown of Peterborough, England, with a camera in hand, snapping pictures of the people he met and listening to their stories. To him, it was a far better way to understand the world.

He always looked for the most eccentric people he could find, anyone who stood out from the crowd. Sometimes he'd snap a single picture of that person and walk away. Other times he'd have lengthy conversations with these strangers.


But eventually, life moved on and so did he. He fell out of love with photography. "Those pictures collected dust for 25 years," he says.

Then, a few years ago, Porsz found those 30- to 40-year-old photos and sent them to be printed in his local newspaper.

Peterborough, reunions, Chris Porsz

Chris Porsz and his camera.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

And remarkably, people started recognizing much younger versions of themselves in his shots. "There was this lightbulb moment," he says of the first time someone wrote to him about one of his photos.

Eventually, he became curious about the people he'd photographed all those years ago, and he decided he'd try to find some of them. It wouldn't be easy — the photos were taken a long time ago, and Porsz didn't have names or contact information for many of the people in them.

But he did find some of them, sometimes in extraordinary ways. "Some were absolute million-to-one coincidences," he says.

Like the time he went out on a call (he's a parademic these days) at 3 a.m., and the man he was there to treat recognized him as the photographer who'd snapped his picture all those years ago. On another call, he asked a local shopkeeper if he recognized any of the subjects in the photos. He did.

Once Porsz began posting about the project online — he calls it "Reunions" — it became easier and easier to reconnect with his former subjects.

Many were eager to recreate the old shots as best they could, like Layla Gordon, who Porsz originally photographed drinking milk in 1983.

time, memories, photos

The child version drinking milk.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

milk, history, project

The adult enjoys milk too.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

Others groups, like these schoolgirls, had fallen out of touch. "Reunions," fittingly enough, brought them back together.

schoolgirls, pose, soul mate

Schoolgirls pose for a photo.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

best friends, intimate, confidant

The adult versions find time for a group photo.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

Porsz says that his subjects, like this wild-haired couple, were strangers to him 30 years ago. Now he considers many of them friends.

punk rock, narrative, archive

Pink colored hair and mohawks.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

record, story, account

The color has moved to the sleeves.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

In all, Porsz has collected over 130 before-and-afters in his new book.

The response to Porsz's work has been more than he ever imagined.

He's personally heard from people all over the world who've been inspired by his project and want to try to recreate it themselves. But beyond that, he just hopes it brings a little warmth and happiness to the people who see it.

"It's important for me for my photography to make people smile," he says. "Because there is so much sadness in the world."

And while the project is finished for now, don't count out the possibility of "Reunions Part 2" somewhere down the line.

"I'd love to meet these guys in 2046 when I'm 94 years old," Porsz says.


This article originally appeared on 11.30.16

Frederick William Park and Thomas Ernest Boulon, aka Fanny and Stella.

Officially, there were no homosexual men in Victorian England.

But that's just because the word "homosexual" didn't enter the language until the mid-to-late 1890s. ("Transsexual" and "transgender" would catch on even later.)

There were, however, men who engaged in sexual and/or romantic relationships with each other. They just didn't identify with the same words we use today; in fact, many of them used a special cant-like, crypto-language called Polari in order to communicate without exposing themselves in public.

While the rest of society was struggling to define and understand them, they went about with their usual business, living their lives regardless of words.


Consider the case of Frederick William Park and Thomas Ernest Boulton — also known as Fanny and Stella, respectively.

The duo met while working as actors around London, where there was a longstanding tradition in the theater of men cross-dressing to perform as women. Fanny and Stella appeared onstage as sisters, but Park and Boulton carried these identities offstage as well, cavorting at parties and in public.

photography, transgender, victorian age

Fredrick and Thomas pose in an embrace as Fanny and Stella.

Photo via Frederick Spalding/Wikimedia Commons.

Boulton, whose affinity for women's clothing and dreams of femme stardom stretched back to childhood, had a live-in relationship with Lord Arthur Clinton, a naval officer and the son of the 5th duke of Newcastle. Park, on the other hand, was the son of a judge. While it's not clear whether he was involved sexually with either Boulton or Clinton, he was known to have a written correspondence with Clinton in character as Fanny.

relationships, victorian, transgender, laws

Clinton, Boulton, and Park pose for a photograph.

Clinton, Boulton, and Park. Photo via Frederick Spalding/Wikimedia Commons.

Things started to get messy when Fanny and Stella were arrested outside of London's Royal Strand Theatre on April 28, 1870.

Their alleged crime? "Conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offense" with the other men they were accompanying. Lord Clinton was also indicted in the scandal but tragically died before it went to trial, possibly by suicide.

When the case reached the court, the prosecution faced a difficult challenge. There was nothing technically illegal about a man wearing a dress in public, and it was impossible to prove someone guilty of "being gay or transgender" when the words didn't yet exist. Thus, the only potentially punishable offense for which Fanny and Stella could be tried was sodomy.

Fanny and Stella stood before a judge in their best evening gowns while doctors presented physical evidence of sodomy. Even the public at the time thought the spectacle was ridiculous, and the two were ultimately acquitted by a jury.

freedom, human rights, transgender, history

A drawing depicting both Fredrick and Thomas being arrested in 1870.

Image via The Illustrated Police News/Wikimedia Commons.

In 1880, Victorian values were once again scandalized by the "disgraceful proceedings" of a so-called "drag ball" in Manchester.

The private event on Sept. 24, 1880, at the city's Temperance Hall was organized by a group calling themselves the Pawnbrokers' Assistants' Association. They took numerous precautions to protect the guests' identities, including a bouncer at the door dressed as a nun, black paper on the windows, and a blind accordion player to provide the party's music with plausible deniability.

Somehow, Detective Jerome Caminada, who's believed to be the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, caught wind of the occasion. The sneaky sleuth reportedly observed "men dressed in the most fantastic fashion, and eight of them in the garb of women."

The police waited until the early hours of the morning to raid the party and ended up arresting nearly 50 people for the crime of "having solicited and incited each other to commit an unnameable offense" — again, because there was nothing explicitly illegal about "being queer and dancing the can-can."

In the end, most of the defendants were forced to pay a bond in a promise to the court for 12 months of "good behavior."

legal, laws, transgender rights, police news

A cartoon published in the Police News talking about the incident.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Five years later, the U.K. passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, which made "gross indecency" punishable by prison time.

Member of Parliament Henry Labouchère realized that if they were ever going to bring charges against queer men, trying to legally prove they engaged in sodomy wasn't the answer.

Labouchère came up with the vaguely defined term gross indecency, which basically meant any kind of physical sexual contact between two people with penises that the court deemed "gross." (There was no comparable law against queer women.) The new law was tacked onto an amendment about the age of consent.

Perhaps the most famous charge of gross indecency was against Oscar Wilde, who served two years hard labor in Reading prison, from which he never quite recovered. The British codebreaker and computer science progenitor Alan Turing was also charged with gross indecency in 1952. As punishment, he was chemically castrated; 50 years later, the British government acknowledged the action was grossly inhumane.

statues, memoriam, history, reformation, transgender rights

Statues made in honor of mathematician Alan touring and writer Oscar Wilde respectively.

Photos via Lmno/Wikimedia Commons and Sandro Schachner/Wikimedia Commons.

(Left) The Alan Turing memorial in Sackville Park, Manchester, and the Oscar Wilde memorial in Merrion Square, Dublin.

Sex between two consenting British males was finally decriminalized in 1967 — but anti-gay laws stayed on the books in Scotland and Northern Ireland until the 1980s.

It still took until 2010 for the U.K. to secure most other rights for LGBTQ people, including adoption, marriage, and protection from discrimination.

The fight for sexual and gender equality has been long and arduous, but one thing is certain: Queer people have always been here, regardless of what they were called at various times in history.

Naming things is how we give them power. The words we use today make it easier for us to see and to accept identities that have always been present for what they truly are: essential parts of the human experience.

This article originally appeared on 12.21.16

Science

British town canceled its New Year's Eve fireworks to let Thor the walrus sleep

Scarborough residents rallied to protect their unexpected visitor.

A walrus decided to park it for a while in the town of Scarborough.

There are plenty of predictable reasons a New Year's Eve fireworks show might get canceled, but "let's let the walrus sleep" isn't one of them.

That's exactly what happened in the U.K. town of Scarborough, however, as residents rang in 2023.

According to British Divers Marine Life Rescue, a walrus was sighted on a boat ramp in Scarborough around 11:30 p.m. on December 30. The wildlife rescuers had hoped that the male walrus—nicknamed Thor—would rest for a bit and then slip back into the harbor by the time the public woke up the next morning. Instead, he got comfy and decided to park it for a while.

Authorities cordoned off the area to prevent anyone from messing with Thor, and as news spread of the walrus's presence, thousands of people came to see him. It's not every day that an Arctic walrus shows up in the middle of a British town.


"Kind public asked many questions, offered and bought hot drinks and food, and expressed their appreciation of Thor being protected, with the overwhelming majority being immeasurably respectful to our visitor," shared British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

During the night, Thor appeared to be agitated by some passing cars and lights, which led wildlife rescuers and local council members to reconsider the town's New Year's Eve fireworks show. Not wanting to cause stress to the walrus, they agreed to cancel the fireworks display "without hesitation."

The Sea Life Scarborough aquarium shared a photo of Thor resting near the water along with a request to the public.

"Please be respectful of his rest and try not to disturb him. While it is a very exciting opportunity for us, naturally they do not like lots of noise and are not familiar with domestic animals so please keep pets on leads and remain a safe distance for your own welfare and his. Hopefully within a few days he will have got enough rest to move on and continue his adventures North!"

As it turns out, Thor did return to the sea after his respite in Scarborough and showed up in Blyth, another British town 70 miles north of Scarborough, a couple of days later.

Dan Jarvis, director of welfare and conservation at the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, told the BBC that Thor was "heading in the right direction," which is good, but that walruses increasingly being seen in European waters could be a sign of climate change causing a loss of sea ice. Walruses feed mainly on cockles, clams and mussels on the seafloor, but they use sea ice to rest and to digest their meals. With less sea ice in their habitat, they may wander to find land on which to rest.

Having a walrus interacting with humans can also lead to tragedy for either people or the walrus. Freya, a wandering walrus who kept hoisting herself onto boats around Northern Europe in the summer of 2022, was euthanized by Norwegian authorities who deemed her a danger to the public.

As climate change creates more and more unexpected wildlife encounters, people will have to defer to experts on how to handle them. But when it comes to fireworks, even local wildlife and pets can find them stressful. Fireworks displays have been shown to cause panic responses in birds and can result in pets trying to flee otherwise familiar environments out of fear. And according to The Humane Society, "Wildlife rehabilitation centers are often flooded with traumatized, injured and orphaned wild animals after the holiday." As an alternative, many cities are exploring replacing fireworks with drone light displays.

Kudos to the town of Scarborough for putting the well-being of Thor ahead of its traditional New Year's Eve celebration, and kudos to the public as well for heeding the call to not disturb the walrus during his respite. Here's hoping Thor continues his way north and makes it back to his Arctic home safe and sound.

Photo by Mark de Jong on Unsplash

Queen Elizabeth II passed away after 70 years on the throne of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

After seven decades on the throne as Britain's monarch, Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8 at the age of 96.

The historic nature of her passing can't be overstated. Elizabeth was Britain's longest-reigning monarch and the second-longest reigning monarch in history (after France's Louis XIV). She wore the crown for a third of the entire history of the United States, which is mindblowing. The vast majority of people alive today have never lived in a world without Queen Elizabeth. Whatever people's feelings may be about the monarchy, British colonialism, royal family drama and the like, her passing marks the end of a long and storied era in human history.

Her title and station may have been powerful and consequential, but at the end of the day, she was a human being. The popular Netflix series "The Crown" helped remind people of that fact, but perhaps nothing showed the fun-loving, human side of Queen Elizabeth like the stories told by those who spent the most time with her.


During the celebration of her 70 years of reign this summer, the queen's former bodyguard Richard "Dick" Griffin told Sky News about a hilarious encounter Elizabeth had with two Americans while hiking in the hills near her castle in Scotland.

The hikers struck up a conversation, and it was immediately clear they didn't recognize that they were talking to Queen Elizabeth. They told her about where they had traveled around Britain, and then one gentleman asked her where she lived.

"Well, I live in London but I've got a holiday home just on the other side of the hills," the queen responded. She told them she'd been coming to the area since she was a little girl, for over 80 years.

The man said if she'd been coming there for 80 years, she must have met the queen at some point. Her response was perfectly quick-witted.

"Well I haven't, but Dick here meets her regularly," she said, gesturing to Griffin.

Griffin's response was equally hilarious, playing along with her and never letting the hikers know that they were shooting the breeze with the queen herself.

Watch Dick Griffin tell the story:

The fact that they asked to get a picture with the bodyguard and not Elizabeth is absolutely hilarious. Imagine their reaction when someone saw their photos and told them. The utter astonishment and hilarity of that moment had to have been epic.

One story among thousands in a life that will not soon be forgotten. Rest in peace, Queen Elizabeth, and condolences to all who loved her.