109-year-old father Sid Sanderson has been photographing his daughter Ellen every day for the past 85 years. It’s a project that he calls “a labor of love” and that she calls, “It never stops being embarrassing.”
When Ellen was born in 1930, Sid began taking daily pictures as a simple act of fatherly love. But as he watched his daughter grow from infant to toddler to teenager to middle-aged to elderly to bed-ridden, he began to feel that there was a deeper meaning behind the ritual. The proud father says, “We’ve made it through WWII, Vietnam, so many Mondays, the Kennedy assassination, her first divorce, 9/11. Through it all, Daddy was there, pointing his camera at her lovely smile.”
Ellen started to grow tired of her father’s photo taking when she was 12 years old, and came down with a bout of consumption. “I couldn’t really stand without coughing, but he propped me up, saying we hadn’t ever missed a day,” Ellen says. Sid beams at the memory. “She sure was a trooper. Let me see if I can find the photo.” He then spent the next two weeks poking at the bins of photos that surround his nursing home bed with his cane.
Sid explains why he kept going: “Once you hit 5000 photos, you figure, why stop now?”
Ellen assumed the project would naturally end when she went off to college. But her selfless dad made the daily six-hour trek. “They change so much every day. If you don’t document that, well, you’re not doing your job as a father.” While Ellen won’t confirm that she moved states to escape her father’s loving devotion, she’s less evasive about her three failed marriages. “Wherever we went, Dad would show up at the door with the camera, many times when my husband and I were trying to…well, we just couldn’t start a family.” In response, Sid says, “The real problem is she never found a man who loved her enough to take a photo of her every day of her life.”
Sid insists this journey will continue long after he’s dead. “I’ve made the necessary arrangements. Someone will always be there to photograph my Ellie bear.” And if Ellen should die first? “Already talked to the funeral home. I’ll keep shooting that mug until she’s nothing but dust.”
Sid recently had the 31,046 pictures converted into a six-hour time-lapse video, garnering close to 27 views on Youtube. Neither he or his daughter has been able to enjoy due to deteriorating eyesight.