Tampa Bay photographer Nick Cardello on becoming “internet famous”

By : Jeremy Williams
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TAMPA – Tampa Bay and occasional Watermark photographer Nick Cardello met his husband Kurt English 25 years ago. The two hit it off and the following year marched in Washington D.C.’s 1993 Equality March.

Jump forward 24 years: Cardello and English, married and still together, went to the March for Equality in Washington D.C. June 11 and recreated a photo they took that first march. Cardello posted a side-by-side of the two photos to his Facebook that night.

“I posted the picture on my personal Facebook page Sunday night and it was almost immediately – it looked like a ticker counting on my notifications of people liking it – that it took off,” Cardello says. “I didn’t think too much about it and went to bed, then when I woke up the next day and it had over 1,000 shares.”

Cardello and English had gone viral. Currently, their Facebook photo has more than 25,000 shares, over 9,600 likes and 700 comments.

“I had to shut down my friends requests. I had a couple hundred friend requests coming in from all around the world and I couldn’t keep up with that, so I had to switch it over to just friends of friends. Then I started to get private messages,” Cardello says.

People from countries and communities that didn’t feel safe liking the photo or commenting on Cardello’s post sent private messages thanking the couple for giving them hope that there was a chance for them to be loved in the world.

It really went viral when someone pulled the photos from Cardello’s Facebook page and Tweeted them out with the tag, “It’s just a phase.”

“Someone put that up on Twitter and then another account pulled his Tweet and put it up, and those two Tweets are what really went viral, and I have no idea who these people are,” Cardello says.

One Tweet alone has over 650,000 likes and nearly 170,000 retweets. By the end of the first day it was number one on Reddit’s front page.

“That’s when the media outlets started calling and asking for interviews,” Cardello says.

Cardello and English’s story has appeared on more than 30 news outlets including Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, in over 20 countries and was even given a shout out by George Takei himself.

“We just took a photo of us to share with our friends. We aren’t special, we’re not celebrities, it’s just us,” Cardello says. “We were surprised that so many people connected with it. It wasn’t until we started to read the comments that we realized people were identifying with it and they started to post similar pictures of themselves 20, 25, some even 30 years apart.”

Cardello says it was a bit of a second coming out for the couple. He doesn’t post much in the way of intimate photos on his Facebook and English doesn’t even have one.

“I don’t usually post up photos of us kissing or holding hands, and posting this up was me just kind of putting it out there and saying if this makes you uncomfortable to see then that is your problem, not mine,” Cardello says. “These are the same type of photos that the straight community posts and no one thinks anything of it.”

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