A Life Worth Remembering


“I kind of want to be a vagabond,” Phil says as a waitress refills his coffee in a bustling TriBeCa diner. With a tinge of regret, he continues, “but I’m too responsible for that.”

Phil Anema, co-founder of timeshel, sits opposite me at a red vinyl booth and shares his story. Between bites of a Spanish omelet and wheat toast, he speaks of his family of origin, their legacy, his current journey, and the legacy he hopes to leave behind.

With a persona that is both humble and bold, Phil is the kind of person who recognizes how vast the world is and how small each individual is in relation to it. “I know I’m a tiny blip on the radar of the world,” he says. “I want to see as much of it as I possibly can during this lifetime.”

Phil grew up in a quiet town in Michigan, born into a conservative Christian family that was more committed to maintaining the status quo than pursuing a life of adventure and exploration. Their mantra “let’s make today nice” shaped much of the legacy it left with him — be good, do right. Though aspects of his upbringing still resonate with him, he has always resisted this mentality, asking questions and pushing boundaries from the time he was a child.


His family of origin presented him with a specific picture of how the world functioned, and he resolved to discover if the rest of the world functioned the same way. The best way to do this, he thought, was to break away from his roots in search of a new horizon. “I wanted to experience the full gamut of what this life has to offer,” he says.

He moved to New York City with nothing but two boxes and a bicycle. He found a job at a non-profit and worked for two years before he lost his job in the economic downturn, so he picked up photography and started shooting. His photography career began to gather momentum, opening doors for him to do exactly what he had wanted to do when he left Michigan — to see as much of the world as possible.

During the past six years, he has photographed weddings everywhere from Lake Como, Italy, to Porto Cheli, Greece, to Big Sur, California, and in 2010 he photographed victims of a catastrophic mudslide in rural Brazil. In 2013 he and Sean Pfitzenmaier started timeshel in the hopes of giving others the means to remember and reflect on their own stories.


Customers dash in and out of the diner, a blast of cold air sweeping over the booth each time the door swings open. I ask Phil what kind of legacy he hopes to leave, and speaks of his desire to live a life characterized by adventure. “I want to live a life that’s worth remembering,” he says. “Maybe even book worthy.”

“It would also be nice to be remembered as a kind and loving person, of course,” he adds with a laugh. He then pauses for a moment before confessing, “But what I really want them to say about me after I’m gone? He really went for it.”


Interested in preserving your own story through printed photographs? Learn more at www.timeshel.co.