My friend Age started a blog yesterday, and she began by doing more reflection on my 2012 Photo Project than I’ve done.
A great chum of mine resolved last year to take a photo and write a blog entry every day of 2012. When she pulled herself out of bed on January 1st, 2012 after a night of jollity and breezily-made resolutions, 365 pictures and 365 blogs spread out before her like the distant shore of France teasing a swimmer about to jump into the English Channel at Dover. She could, just barely, see the possibility of making it to the other side, but those 365 pictures and blogs looked like they might just get lost somewhere under the waves halfway across the English Channel. I mean, three hundred and sixty five photos and blogs! Mercy! What was she thinking?
Well, she did it. Not 365 blogs — life does get in the way. Work, and catching planes and Barbara Stanwyck movies on the Turner Classic Movie channel all crowd into life to take you away from your intentions. And that’s okay. You have to go with the flow.But she kept ahold of the spirit of her intentions and she did take her 365 pictures, and along the way recorded a life expanding and growing and becoming free.
I sort of have this thing that I can’t reflect on and finalize that project until I finish posting the unposted photos. And there are about 25 or 30 of them, I think, and two or three half formed longer posts around them. And, I’m in a place (a hotel at Heathrow) where the wifi is rickety and uploading photos is kind of a pain. But I woke up too early to go check in for my flight home, and I’m playing out my last hours in overpriced hotels on this weird journey that seems to have lessons I’m not quite ready to learn, and Age seems to have tossed me a baton.
There were two days I didn’t take a single photo in the year: one day in June, where I got caught up in work and cleaning out my refrigerator and just plain forgot, and December 28th, the day I landed in Manchester and went to sleep at Finch’s house for about 18 hours. I have to look at my camera, but I think I did manage to take one shot at the resort before we left it on our long travel day on the 27th.
Now, some days, the shots were unbelievably quotidian:
My feet while I was stretching upside down in my gym.
And I noticed through the year a real reliance on the sunsets from my window to provide me with something “worth” taking a photo of.
That is one thing I took from the project: something about noticing, and something about weighing what is “worth” photographing.
If I scan across the photos for the year, I started out in Indonesia, spent a lot of time at Finch’s in northern England, had the magnificent space of Brazil, and then went underwater. Some time with Finch, mostly lovely, in the lost house in Austin. In between, it’s a lot of shoes, and sunsets, and images of food as I went about my daily life. A few transcendent moments, like the Triadventure, and time with my niecelings.
I’m not sure I became a better photographer in any way by doing this project, really, although I definitely spent some real effort with my camera in Brazil, and in Austin (deep focus to capture a single dragonfly at a garden centre stands out for me), and on some of the spring days in England. I was pleased with what I was able to do with a recalcitrant compact underwater. I did spend a bit of time playing with settings on the sunset shots, and occasionally, creating little still lifes in my condo, which is surprisingly difficult to light at night. But the vast majority of days, it was me and my iphone, snapping something that caught my fancy. Shoelaces or salmon.
When I put together a little meditative slideshow for a couple of events I did, I was pretty pleased by my meagre little “portfolio” — but the majority of those images were from trips I took with Finch, where the subject matter was inherently breathtaking, and I was able to do one of the many things he taught me about photography, which was to wait, take many shots, keep calibrating. Waiting, many shots and calibration are kind of the opposite of what I did in the daily shots.
I do notice that I tend to see photography in many ways as illustrative of a story that also calls for words, not as narratives in themselves. I want more narrative, and I want more comfort with images that might include other people. I took one shot, for example, from way across the street one day in October. Two people sitting in the window of a restaurant, at noon on a workday, completely canoodling.
What was the story there? Lousy shot because taken with an iphone from across the street and then blown up, but I think it was a moment that I noticed because this project has given me a higher antenna about Things that Could Be Photographed, Moments to Notice, Things That are Happening around me. Sometimes, the photos prompted some really meaningful longer posts from me — and sometimes they illustrated something that would have burst out of me anyway.
I suppose, on balance, being a person who notices more, who pauses more, is not a bad legacy from this project. I do know that some of the deeper noticings — like the two sets of delightful dragonfly images I did in Austin at different times — were scaffolded by being with Finch, by doing things like accompany him to the garden centre with my camera. Being with someone who takes photos creates the space for attentiveness. I need to figure out how to bring that attentiveness and that extra burst of energy to my own life now, to wedge myself out of my condo and go down to the lake more, to the Spit, to gardens and places to walk on my own. To watch people on the street more closely.
I think I’ll continue this project in 2013, but I want to give what I do with it more thought.