Son’s life through a lens proves huge YouTube hit

NAWN 121009122AM Ian McLeod with his son Cory.  Picture : Adrian Murray. (121009122AM)
NAWN 121009122AM Ian McLeod with his son Cory. Picture : Adrian Murray. (121009122AM)

Cory McLeod’s whole life has been captured on film. Almost every day since he was born, he has been photographed by his father.

Now, as he turns 21, these 7,500 images have been turned into a six-and-a-half minute video clip which has proved a phenomenal hit on YouTube.

“It was a daft idea really,” said his dad Ian. “One I came up with after a drink or two, maybe.

“I was thinking I could do it for two years at most, then knock it on the head. But then you get to the point where you wonder if you’ll regret it if you stop.

“You brush your teeth twice a day, what’s hard about a click?”

The family, from Starbeck, didn’t quite manage every single day. Almost inevitably, a few are missing.

A whole month was lost once when the film wasn’t winding. Another time, Ian’s camera was stolen while on holiday in Chile. A phone was stolen. Once, while Cory was staying at someone’s house, they forgot.

And then, at other times, it slipped past midnight before they realised.

“He’s never cheated,” said Cory. “Even at five minutes past, he wouldn’t take it.”

The first time a picture was missed, Ian panicked. But luckily his niece had taken a picture that day.

Another time, they were saved when he was captured on a nightclub camera on a night out. After that, it mattered less if a day was missed, Ian just slotted in a little sketch instead.

Cory had to take a little camera on school trips or visits to friends’ houses. Last year he went travelling with friends on a three-month trip around South America. He didn’t miss a day.

“My dad’s had to drive to a friend’s house before,” said Cory. “I got a bit of stick for that.

“I used to find it awkward, I didn’t realise the value of it.

“It was only when I got to 16 or 17 that I started to appreciate it, and realise what it could be.”

Cory’s first picture was taken at Harrogate General Hospital, now a housing estate. There are pictures of him in his school uniform at Oatlands and St Aidan’s. In football kit with the Killinghall Nomads, Pannal Ash Juniors and in his Liverpool FC shirt.

Leeds Festival features, as does a house music festival in Belgium. There is the leaning tower of Pisa, Machu Piccu in Brazil.

But the majority are just taken at home. Christmas shots, first days at school, eating an ice cream, going out with friends, looking a little bit hungover.

“There are lots I look back at now and think I wish I hadn’t pulled that face,” he said.

His dad, who has lived in Harrogate since 1966, works two jobs; at a picture framers during the week and as a care assistant with disabled adults on a Sunday.

He is a member of the local running club, the Nidd Valley Road Runners. He is not a professional photographer.

“When I started this, there was no YouTube,” he said. “All I had in mind was a video. That was as far as the idea went.”

Ian started scanning the pictures one at a time last year. It took him three months to digitise them all. In the end there were more than 7,500 images, in 71 albums.

“It’s never been straightforward. We weren’t organised, it’s always been chaotic,” he said.

In two weeks, the video has had more than 610,000 hits. Bizarrely, 300,000 of these were in Japan in just one day last week.

“It must have been on the news,” said Cory. “I did get a message from a girl in Finland who said she’d seen me on the TV. She keeps trying to be my friend on Facebook.”

Cory has become quite a hit with the girls, and there have been comments on the video about his ‘hotness’. He blushes at this, admitting he has been contacted quite a lot on Twitter already.

“I’m not phased by it,” he shrugs. “It’s like I’m on the Truman Show.

“Someone commented that I should show my face more, but then someone else pointed out that it shows a story. You can’t say I’ve got a boring life.”

This is the first video of its kind. The closest, one which shows six years of a man’s life, featured in an episode of the Simpsons.

“We’re holding out for Family Guy,” joked Ian.

The pair said they never expected a response like this.

“We just didn’t know,” said Ian. “It was like we were unleashing something unreal.

“I had been a bit wary, my hand hovered over the upload button. But we did it. It was like opening Pandora’s Box.”

The project is still going, but is in Cory’s hands now as he is living with friends while studying film and television production at Leeds Metropolitan University.

“When do you stop?” he asked. “I don’t think I can. We’ve come this far, we may as well carry on.”

21 Years is now live on YouTube. To see the clip click here