for 40 years, five childhood friends reproduce the same group photo

For forty years now, John Dickson, Dallas Burney, Mark Rumer-Cleary, Jon Molony and John “Wedge” Wardlaw have had fun taking pictures of themselves in the same place and with the same postures.

Youthful faces and abundant hair have now given way to wrinkles and receding haircuts. John Dickson, Dallas Burney, Mark Rumer-Cleary, Jon Molony and John “Wedge” Wardlaw are five American friends who were educated together at Santa Barbara High School in California.

In 1982, when they were young, they traveled to Copco Lake, a man-made lake built in part by John Wardlaw’s grandfather. There they fished, hiked, barbecued, picked fruit, had fun and took a picture of themselves.

A ritual that is 40 years old

A shot where we can find the five Americans seated and facing the lens of the camera, tanned skin and sporty body for some. While Mark Rumer-Cleary puts a hat on his lap, John Molony holds a jar in his right hand. A banal photo of a banal scene where American youth strike a pose while enjoying the Californian sun.

If the image immortalizes these memories, the five friends did not want to stop there: they made the decision to meet every five years to take the same shot in the same place. It was done in 1987, then in 1992, in 1997, in 2002, in 2007, in 2012 and in 2017.

Each time John, Dallas, Mark, Jon and John meet in the same place and strike the same pose, always with a hat on Mark’s lap and a jar in John’s right hand. An opportunity for them to meet again, even if they manage to see each other outside of this unusual meeting.

Post-pandemic reunion

But the vagaries of life have caught up with them and the friends have not been able to see each other since their last photo in 2017. The pandemic has a lot to do with it, but also the liposarcoma (rare cancer of the soft tissues) which affected the left leg from Dallas. Once the tumor was removed and the health crisis passed, the five friends were able to meet again in front of the lake and sit on the same balustrade.

“As we get older, so does the railing,” Dallas Burney joked to CNN. “We’re getting heavier. This bench and railing is about 10 meters high, I’m afraid one day I’ll hear it crack.”

Today, John Dickson is the only one still living in Santa Barbara where he maintains a website offering tourist activities. Jon Molony became a photographer and lives in New Orleans, Mark Rumer-Cleary is retired and enjoys the rest of his life in Portland, Oregon. John Wardlaw has become a filmmaker and photographer and lives in Bend, again in Oregon. Finally Dallas Burney, veteran of the Air Force, now delivers courses in North Carolina.

Proof that even the bad episodes of life cannot overcome forty years of friendship.

Hugues Garnier BFMTV journalist

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