The 365 photo-diary

Personal, Words 2 Jan 15

It’s the start of the new year and I’ve seen a few people start a 365 project. Even though I’ve done one I’m left wondering why?

It took me a few failed attempts to start a 365 and on my 31st birthday I was determined to start and off I went. I ended up accidentally documenting the year I started going out with my wife to be. So I know just how interesting the 365 journey can be.

That said my issue with the 365 in today’s world is that we almost all do a 365 with Instagram. We’ve always got a camera with us to document that random moment. So why even bother to take up a photo diary 365 and post bad photos of crisp packets, the cat doing cute things because you needed a photo or that coffee in Starbucks? You don’t need the pressure of a 365 to force you to take that photo. It’s what we do now. I just photographed my morning cuppa.

But I guess part of the point of a 365 photo dairy is that you don’t know how a photo might fit in to the larger picture. It might be a photo that means nothing on the day but something later. I know some of my 365 photos mean a lot to me and they are photos I might not have taken without the pressure to photograph something that day.

So I can’t flat out say that the 365 is pointless in an Instagram world can I? My 365 was pre-Instagram and those days were quite different. It wasn’t easy to upload my daily photo to Flickr. There was no app. I think I had to email them to my Flickr address. My 365 is an exploration of the early days of iPhone photo apps. Hipstamatic and such. It was the Wild West of photo app days. It’s a different landscape today. Instagram recently beat Twitter as a content sharing platform. It’s just so easy to snap, post and carry on. That ease has resulted in us taking and sharing photos every day. So why 365?

If I had the cash I’d love to do a Polaroid 365. But at £2 per photo that’s kinda pricey. I would also need the time and subject matter. I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel like anything I do needs focus. If I did a 365 it would need a brief. Some ideas…

  • Polaroid self portraits
  • Leica M6 and 1 roll a month
  • Street portraits (an obvious one and one I tried / failed 5 years ago)
  • One camera. One lens. Same setup all year. Same processing style.
  • One photo a day of the book you’re reading. Force you to read. Could be a boring thing to photo.
  • One photo a day of your attempt at a New Years resolution. Even if you fail it you keep documenting the fall out maybe?

Limits give you boundaries to push against and rebel. You’ll do better with limits.

I chatted with my mate about his 365. He said he was glad that he did it, and printed it off as a book. Something I have yet to do with mine. It’s important to print it. He also said it taught him to appreciate what can be done with just a phone and not rely on a DSLR. He wouldn’t have discovered this if he didn’t have the pressure of the 365. So that’s interesting.

On the flipside though I spoke with my wife who felt that her 365 made her take a lot of bad photos due to a lack of time. She would get close to the end of the day and have to photograph something dull in the house just to have a photo that day. Her comments on the project can be found in her final entry on Flickr. To quote her directly, “Anyone can take a photo a day but not everyone can take a good photo every day. What I aspire to is taking a small number of photos that I feel proud of, not lots of mediocre photos.”

In writing this I have thought about doing a 365. Part of me likes the idea of having a focused project to do that in a year means I’m better at said subject. Video blog? I know I need to shoot more video. Honest self portraits? I always feel like I’m never honest online. I’m always a polished version of myself. Shooting more with the Leica? I think that’s a given.

So I can sort of see reasons for a 365 but I chatting with my friend I realised why they can be bad. It’s a New Year resolution. You start it because it’s 1st January and everyone is starting something. You don’t start it because you are inspired by something to go out and create. There’s no emotional connection to someone else’s work that keeps you motivated, that gives you that reason why. You’re doing it just because it sounded cool. Sure that can work, mine did, but imho if I were to start one I’d hope to have an emotional connection to something so I know why I’m doing it and what I hope to achieve.

If you are starting a 365 today I just want to wish you both good luck, we’re all counting on you. (Airplane reference). I hope you’ve got something good planned so you don’t hate those days when you photograph your tea cup or have to look moody in a gritty black and white photo just cos you needed something.

Here are some photos I took while writing this piece. It’s taken me 3 hours to take a self portrait I like. So maybe doing an “honest” self portrait project wouldn’t work. I don’t have the time really. Sure I could use a Polaroid but that would still cost money, £2/day. That said, even though I’m a black and white fanboy, I like the colour photo as it shows just how grey my top hair is now compared to my beard. It’s an honest photo. I’m in my dressing gown, jedi edition, with grey hair, a beard that needs trimming and a wall I’ve been meaning to paint for years. Sure I could have gone with the arty black and white photo of me meaningfully looking off to the distance but thats not a very honest portrait. In the end if I were to do a 365 I’d like to do something of this nature that forces me to grow.

Also, gettin old man. Gettin old.

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