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The Selfie Project

For years, Santiago “Bo” Botello has kept in touch with friends and family with a simple reminder, the photos on his phone. He has a photo carousel widget that randomly cycles through a photo reel ranging from the present to 2003, allowing various memories to pop up each day, and he often reaches out to those in the picture to reminisce.

When Bo’s 50th birthday began approaching, he knew he wanted to do something special to commemorate the milestone. When he began thinking about all the people he’s connected with throughout his life, an idea struck. Take intentional time to meet with his loved ones, take a photo together (no group photos, that’s cheating!), and combine all the photos to create one video with everyone all in one place. And so, this is where the adventure begins. Bo began assembling a list of those he wanted to connect with, and thanks to his large family, the list quickly grew to 70-something. Then adding friends, co-workers, and even pets, the list totaled 178 names. So here was Bo, sitting with a list of 178 people to connect with and about a year to do it. Luckily, many of those on the list were in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which made getting together logistically easier. But, there were quite a few that lived across the country and even one that lived across the world.

“This project took me to a lot of places,” said Bo. “It was amazing when I’d see people I hadn’t seen in years; we’d pick up right where we left off and get lost in conversation. Sometimes we’d almost forget to take a picture!”

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It’s hard not to get close to people when you’re spending 45 minutes with them three times a week.”

- Santiago Botello

This project also led to a lot of lovely surprises. Like an unexpected run-in with an old friend he hadn’t seen in decades at a big-box store and seeing a co-worker turned friend that just happened to walk by at a restaurant while he was there with a different friend. Bo said that was the beauty of this project, all the happy accidents and fantastic coincidences that happened along the way. But this project was also tricky in some ways; while it was beautiful seeing people he doesn’t see often, it also took away time from people he usually spends a lot of time with during the regular rhythms of his life, not to mention the added thought and logistics of planning trips and get-togethers. But it was important for him to get this time because you never know how much of it is left. There have been a few on the list that Bo couldn’t see that are no longer here, and others he did, not knowing it would be the last time. That’s the danger of living under the assumption that time has no limit and that death only knocks on everyone else’s door except our own. This project, and the time spent, while it had its difficulties was worth every ounce.

Bo finished his project with 173 pictures. 173 individual photos with so many people he loves and one group photo, breaking his rule. In it, his cardio therapy team who worked on his heart in the summer of 2019. Bo had an unexpected shock of having heart failure, which the doctor then unveiled was minor. “It’s hard not to get close to people when you’re spending 45 minutes with them three times a week”, said Bo of getting to know his cardiology team. That time getting his heart healthy paused the project in some ways but allowed Bo to get to know and befriend even more people because that’s what Bo does best.

If you break down the definition of intentional, it means something is ‘done on purpose,’ and that’s what Bo did; he purposefully and deliberately planned his time around when, where, and how he’d meet up with so many people he’d grown so close to over a lifetime. At its core, this project is centered on love, deep care, and genuine affection for those who mean so much. This project gave Bo time to reflect on all these friendships he’s forged, built, and nurtured and how many people have shown him that same love and care; those who have impacted, taught, and done life alongside him. So many people over the course of so many years have continued to reveal the sweetness this life holds when you’re not doing life alone but with friends.

For Bo’s 50th birthday, he got the best gift, one collective video of 173 faces, filled with laughter and joy and years behind them. And thanks to live photos, most of them, you can hear the laughter.

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