How This One Photo Forever Changed the Lives of Three Families

One moment can change everything.

Out of 15,500 stunning photo submissions captured from locations around the globe, this image taken by Nikola Smernic was one of 10 winners in the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest. It was this single photo that forever changed the course of his life and the lives of the two families in it.

Back in 2013, during Smernic’s last day in Queenstown, New Zealand, with his girlfriend, Martina, they were strolling alongside Lake Wakatipu taking in the sights when they heard beautiful music.

That’s when they saw a street performer with his back turned, playing an old piano against a breathtaking backdrop. Sitting beside the piano player was a young girl who appeared mesmerized or lost in thought.

Without hesitating, Smernic lifted his camera and captured the scene. But because they were in such a rush to leave town, he was unable to ask the musician his name or compliment him on his magnificent music.

It wasn’t until a few months later, when that photo, Piano Play at Sunset, was the merit winner in the annual competition that his regret turned into happenstance.

When news about the winners spread around the world, guess who saw their photo on the Internet? Mathias Lefebvre. The piano man.

The self-taught pianist sent Smernic a Facebook message that brought him to tears.

mathias smernic

Soon after he received this message, the young girl’s mother sent him an email. And that’s when all three families began communicating with each other from different parts of the world.

He sent them each a framed copy of the award-winning photo, and in return the piano man sent him four original albums. They ended up loving his music so much that they purchased the rights to use it for their wedding photography business.

Then, when he and his girlfriend got married in Croatia, the piano man showed up to play for them on their special day.

Smernic tells boredpanda:

It all started with a single moment, a single regret and a single photo taken at the right moment. And now, thanks to it and that National Geographic award, we have two fantastic families from a different part of the planet in our life, we have the perfect business collaboration and the most fantastic travel photography experience one could ever imagine.

Check out more of Smernic’s photography here, or if you’re interested in hearing some of Mathias Lefebvre music, visit SoundCloud.