Sometimes, as a photographer, you’re lucky enough to be invited into the homes of families you’ve never met and you get to add them to the circle of people who’s lives have touched yours. Other times you bring your camera to a place you’ve been many times before and make photographs of people you love. Last night was the latter.
I finished shooting pre-holiday sessions the week before Christmas and took some official time off. I’m not unaccustomed to juggling work and school holiday, but this year I knew I had a busy January (not to mention February March and April) so I welcomed the break. I find parenting and, well, everything else, often compete with each other. I would like so much to say that I’ve figured out the magic balance where everything works just brilliantly. But, of course, you know the answer to that dilemma. Spread too thin. The simplest tasks (dinner?) become epic undertakings when I’m attempting to do multiple things at once. When I sit down to just be with the boys (and nothing hanging over my head. Sales tax due?) it’s just so much – easier. I’m just going to keep believing that it’s okay to work towards the elusive balance. (Definition of insanity, you say?) But two weeks of nothing but being Mom? Yes please. And then, of course, everyone gets sick. Or the weather keeps us inside. Or the boys are quarreling. Again. But we were home together and it was (mostly) lovely. And January promises to be busy. But not in the whiny-I-have-no-time-why-am-I-so-over-committed-way. Just in the I’ve-got-a-lot-on-tap way. And I signed a new school for the spring, bringing my school photo schedule to near capacity. Unbelievable. In year two! Of course, I’m thrilled. And now considering what comes after. For next year: keep the schedule as is and hope to book full again, or consider expanding. Either way, I like the options.
Meanwhile. This is what my life looks like.
In certain circles around the interwebs at this time of year there always seems to be a lot of conversation about whether to embark on any sort of daily/weekly/monthly photo project come New Year’s. I’ve discussed my position on resolutions here in the past, so I’ll skip that, but I’d like to weigh in on the subject of a 365 project (one photo a day for a year).
First, a little history: I started a 365 project four years ago: gave up before February. I started again the next year: made it until June. Not sure why I would attempt something that I failed at twice before, I gave it another shot in 2011 and decided to go easier on myself. That time it stuck. And like anything else, when you have a positive experience (remember the rat pushing the lever and getting the food pellet?) you’re inclined to repeat. So, I did it again in 2012 and I’m so very happy I did. What I have to show for my efforts is a true record of my life. A visual diary and reminder of the lives of my children. I look through the photos (which, despite taking months to actually do, I printed into a book) and I honestly remember, at least, a little bit of just about every single day. And I have a horrible memory. The experience was similar last year. In December when I began to sort through the images I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the body of work. It’s all I can do to keep from patting myself on the back (not an action I’m prone to). So the decision whether do take on the project again was easy. Hell yes. But I’ve learned some things about how to navigate the experience and I thought some of you might like to know what they are. So, here, in no order in particular, are some of the things that have kept me going for 732 days (after the pictures):
Cheat. Seriously. Five years from now when you’re looking through a book containing 365 pictures of your children/pets/feet/whatever, you’re not ever going to feel: “Well, this isn’t really an amazing thing to look at because I actually took these 365 images on 354 days, so it’s not actually valid”. I promise. Your entire project hasn’t gone to pot if you miss a day.
Shoot early in the day. If you wait until 7:00pm, most of the year, you’ll be contending with darkness and your options will be limited.
Don’t be afraid to shoot something you think might be poignant even if you’re sure you already have your picture of the day (see tip number 1). Stockpile images of daily events. If you have the flu and can’t shoot one day, you can always substitute one of those adorable shots of your toddler brushing his teeth naked because, well, he does that every night and who cares if you’re looking at the right day or not.
Find encouragement. Join a Flickr or Instagram group. Post on Facebook. Seek out connection. It’s good for accountability (I have friends who actually email me if they haven’t seen my 365 picture of the day pop up on their Facebook feeds to see if I’m okay) it’s good for inspiration, and it’s good for support.
Go easy on yourself. Sure it’s nice to create a masterpiece, but they don’t all have to be art. Some of them will suck. You’ll take a lot of cliche images. There’ll be the one of your feet on your beach vacation (see above) and the one of the birthday candles being blown out. There will probably be some self portraits (see tip number 6) at arms length and most likely some bird’s eye view of your coffee. And you know what? You’ll love them one day. Art or not.
Make an effort to get in the picture occasionally. You may feel nauseated at the thought, but consider this: twenty years from now, won’t you wish you had photos of your younger self? I kid. There are actually all kinds of reasons having to do with empowerment and self-actualization to get in front of the camera but the truth for me is: it’s important to take a look at myself now and again. If you’re anything like me you’re pretty busy doing for everyone else. Work. Kids. Kids. Kids. Spend a minute every few months considering yourself.
Take on a project within your project. Every November I join in the #GratitudeProject and attempt to photograph something every day of the month that I’m grateful for. It guides my shooting and helps me see what’s around me. Of course the images begin to repeat if you do the project annually, but again, who cares? Who cares if every year I remember to shoot a photo of my husband’s wedding ring and keys on his nightstand to remind me how lucky I am that he sleeps next to me every night. So what if I photograph my front stoop now and again to remind me of how blessed I am to have one. Search the internet—you’ll find plenty of opportunities for these types of projects.
A few last tips that you’ve probably already considered: keep your camera (any camera) with you always. I shot nearly half of last year’s project with my iPhone. Change your angle. Look up. Look down. Have fun.
Above are a handful of pics from this past year and here’s what I remember when I look at them:
Jake sometimes scooters alongside me when I walk to the bus stop to pick up Quinn.
Hurricaine (I hate the stupid term: Superstorm) Sandy, the morning after. Learning of the devastation on our transistor radio.
A rare quiet evening after the boys fell asleep sharing a glass of whiskey with my love.
A job in New York City and a stolen hour afterwards spent strolling 6th Avenue.
An annual pilgrimage to The Beach in August. This year my brother joined.
Someone gave one of the boys plastic insects in their Halloween bag and this particular ant showed up in all kinds of unlikely places. For weeks.
My elder son’s words: “I love autumn because you make applesauce and bread and our house always smells good.” My heart.
Becoming accustomed to being a woman who wears glasses.
And there are 358 other memories that go along with the images from this past year that I wouldn’t give back for anything. So, here’s my advice in a nutshell: do it. You really can’t screw it up.