A few years ago I took on my first “Project 365” – take a photo a day, every day, for a year. I admit I was nervous at first, wondering if I would have the dedication to actually shoot daily. I had some fears, too, especially considering the way in which I shoot and my reliance on an emotional connection or something to stir within me before I can call a photo my own or present an image to a client. I couldn’t count on that happening every day during the project, could I?
Despite the fear and concern, I trudged ahead – and then was completely absorbed in the project. I didn’t miss a day, and I grew as a photographer in ways I could not have predicted. I found out there was a lot I wanted (and at times, needed) to learn and know, and taking on the project underscored what I like and don’t like to shoot. And there were a few surprises along the way as well. Some aspects of photography that I shied away from or had convinced myself I wouldn’t enjoy I actually did enjoy, when I gave them a fair shake. And that realization opened up a world of inspiration and drive in me.
Fast forward a few years . . .
Now I’ve got a busy photography business, and I’ve exhibited my work in about a dozen galleries. And on the non-photography front, I’m working full-time, writing freelance and carting two active kids all over the place every night of the week, it seems.
When I decided to tackle another 365 project at the end of last year, I initially thought up a bunch of themes that might guide what I was doing. In the end I decided to wing it and shoot whatever I wanted.
And I did . . . until November.
Yep, I made it all the way to November and then I gave up. Part of me doesn’t like admitting this because to some it probably seems like a failure, especially since I was so close to gaining something — another series of 365 images. But really I was close to losing something far more important — my passion for this art form that I love and a decline in my ability to “see” photographically.
So here I’ll set the stage: most days I would leave work, pick up kids and head home, where I would help them with homework, oversee piano practice, referee their fights and put a quasi-nutritious meal on the table. All before it was time to rush out the door to some kid’s activity. And for the first half of the year or so I photographed pretty much everything in my path, even if it meant running out to the yard for two minutes to chase the light or find something remotely interesting to photograph.
But there are only so many times you can look at the same things day after day after day after day and see inspiration. For those of you who can, I admire you immensely. But I can’t. I can’t look at the same trees or grass or flowers or whatever right in front of me and see something new and fresh each time. I’m antsy. Some days were better than others. Some days the inspiration was pouring out of me. But as the year wore on, I would stand outside, look around and see . . . nothing. And with my crazy schedule it was more difficult than ever to take off with my camera until I found something that struck me.
I hated that. And I hated that the project started to feel more like a job than something interesting and challenging to grow from. I didn’t want to look at my camera and be reminded that I was uninspired by what was around me. I hated that the only thing that seemed to be growing in me was my agitation. It all began to wear on me and, as a result, I didn’t feel motivated to shoot, market myself, try something new, or update my Facebook business page or blog as frequently as I did before.
So there came a day in November when I felt the resentment growing exponentially and thought, “Why am I doing this to myself? What am I gaining?”
And that day I let it go. I have not felt even the slightest twinge of regret for having made it so far through the project and not seeing it through. You know why? Because now I pick up my camera and shoot when I’m inspired or hired — and I am always inspired when I’m in a session with clients. The clouds are clearing from my vision and I “see” now like I did before, perhaps better in some circumstances.
It’s strange that I know from 20+ years as a professional writer that sometimes I have to walk away from things for a bit so the inspiration and clarity can come and I can resume writing. For reasons I still don’t understand, I didn’t — or couldn’t — extend that same logic to my photography.
Until now, of course.
So the Project 365 was a bust if you look at technically – the end product being a photo taken every day of the year. But the realization of what I was starting to lose — and have since reclaimed — is so much greater that I can only mark this venture down in the “success” column.
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