Book unravels ‘the hard words’

What are the things you wanted to say but never did? 

When Geloy Concepcion posted the question on Instagram that would ultimately change his life (and touch a million lives along the way), he himself was struggling. 

In 2019, Geloy, his wife, and his daughter moved to the United States. “I couldn’t work due to some delays in my immigration papers, and I was a new father who couldn’t seem to find a way to provide for his family,” Geloy shared in an online interview with Fully Booked.

“I was feeling lost and I was about to quit photography, and had all these concerns swirling in my head.”

As one last hurrah, and as a way to find solace in the words of strangers, Geloy posted that question on Instagram. 

To his surprise, the confessions flooded in. From 30 submissions in 2019, Geloy has received, as of this count, 120,000 anonymous letters from all over the world. Geloy’s promise? That he reads each and every one of them, keeps the senders anonymous, and that the collective project will keep on going until the last note is opened.

Vandalized walls

The overwhelming responses from his followers inspired Geloy to rummage through his old film rolls and photo archives. He found hundreds of unused photos and decided to pair them with the words from the project. His inspiration was the vandalized walls around Manila, with the faces intentionally scratched out. Geloy would then post the artwork on Instagram in the hopes of helping people who might be going through the same thing.

“There’s great power that comes when you take something internal and bring it out into the open, especially hard things,” Geloy said.

“Most of the time people just want someone to listen to them. I’ve learned that providing a little bit of room for people to simply share and choosing to listen well can bring a lot of healing and connection.” 

From dealing with his own pain, the project has become as much Geloy’s as the strangers’ and everyone else who is struggling in life. 

A photographic self-help journal

Last June, the Instagram collective project spawned a book of the same name, containing photos and texts from Instagram, but with added features. 

Geloy describes the book as a photographic journal for processing feelings. “It provides space for people to unearth and work through the harder thoughts that we all face as humans. This book is a guided journal of sorts, with admissions sent by my Instagram followers, photos, and writing prompts to remind the reader they are not alone,” Geloy shared. 

This interactive, photographic journal includes:

Reflections to help heal from losses and loneliness

Inspiration to embrace creative expression and achieve new goals

Tear-away stationery featuring photos for writing notes to loved ones and strangers

Lined pages to record your responses to the art, explore feelings, or document the words one may not be ready to share.

Things You Wanted to Say But Never Did is a stunning reminder of the role of art in a time of personal and global unrest, showing how when we speak of our own pain, we can find and offer healing. It also makes a thoughtful gift for when someone is going through a difficult time.