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How one son captured the evolution of London through his dad’s old photos

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Tonet Rivera has spent 27 years recreating photos his father took in London (Picture: Tonet Rivera / SWNS)

A loving son has devoted the last 27 years to recreating his late father’s holiday snaps around London in the 60s.

Tonet Rivera, 66 and from the Philippines, has travelled around the capital replicating photos taken by his dad on his only international trip in 1964. 

While Tonet has used a disposable camera and then his phone to recreate the photos, his father Antonio Rivera Jr used a 1952 Leica IIIf camera with a tripod.

The heartwarming snaps show Tonet recreating his dad’s pictures outside iconic London landmarks such Big Ben, Clarence House and the Tower of London.

Tonet said: ‘I think he would be happy I had discovered the one place he really loved outside of his country. I think he’d be proud that it meant enough to me to take the effort to do it and he’d be grateful that history has been preserved.’

Antonio died at just 50 years old in 1977, when Tonet was 19.

Tonet’s father came to the UK after his employer, an oil distribution company, sponsored his Master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Loughborough University on a scholarship in 1964. 

While at the university from January to November 1964, he wrote letters to Tonet’s mother every single day detailing his time in the UK. He would ‘sneak’ a photo into the envelope to document his adventures sightseeing around London.

Tonet’s father would ‘sneak’ photos into letters to his mother (Picture: Tonet Rivera / SWNS)

Tonet said: ‘He would buy the Par Avion aerogramme form and write letters – it was a determined weight and you couldn’t enclose anything in it but he would sneak the photo in.’

After he had passed Tonet discovered the mass of photos, which totalled more than 300, all with handwritten notes of the locations on the back. When he was sent to England for work he decided to set about recreating them, and he’s been doing just that since the 90s.

Tonet has tried his very hardest to get the shots in the exact same place as his father, which has sometimes proved tricky with the changing London landscape.

While trying to take the shot at Big Ben, a police officer explained the photo had been taken on a roundabout that no longer existed.



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‘We realised my dad had taken his photo from the roundabout. The constable then walked me out to the intersection of Whitehall and Westminster, waved all four directions of traffic to a stop, and told me to take my time taking the picture,’ he added.

He was also stopped by a police officer trying to recreate the snap outside Clarence House as he was trying to work out where his father had taken the photo from.

The officer pointed out that part of the Clarence House exterior was off-limits in 1997 (when Tonet was trying to recreate the photo) as the Queen Mother lived there. 

A police officer literally stopped traffic to help Tonet recreate this snap (Picture: Tonet Rivera / SWNS)

‘But the policeman was going off-duty, and when he did, he took me to the exact spot, beside the Coldstream Guards sentry, and took the shot of me standing where my father was,’ Tonet detailed.

However, some photos have been easy to recreate, like the one at Trafalgar Square. Tonet discovered he could place his hand exactly where his father’s was due to a chip in the fountain that had never been repaired.

When he retired in 2017, Tonet decided to return to London to the UK to take better photos on his phone, and he and his family have been back numerous times in the last seven years to capture the perfect angles.

So far, Tonet has recreated 15 of his dad’s 300 photos and plans to return to London this July to carry on the project, noting that his dad is ‘still leading me to the sights I want to see in London.’

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