Project ambition: Bring back the practice & joy of photography I lacked in 2023 by taking
and posting a photo everyday.
Project status: Abandoned
2023 was perhaps the best and simultaneously worst year for my photography. Whilst my work was more widely published than ever before, I took very few photos and enjoyed fewer still compared to prior years. Outside of paid work I barely touched my cameras, rarely carrying one unless there was an explicit need. When a photographer stops taking photos, their work only goes one way...
Towards the end of the year I decided to combat this apathy in 2024 with an antidote in the form of the 365 project. As a journal keeps the intimidation of the blank page in check for writers; a daily image keeps a photographer engaged with the act of capturing a small part of life. The idea was simple: one photo, every day, for a year.
My early photos were loose, not much more than snapshots. I was out of practice after all! But the first week still produced a few photos I liked. 004 looked to be a wash, but after a few texts I ended up going to my friends studio for a late night portrait session. That turned out to be more fun than I'd had with a camera in years!
I also worked out that I didn't like publishing these photos via newsletter. This project was going to be the foundation of my newsletter — because as we're all told "you need a newsletter if you want to have an audience" — but to me it just felt like the wrong application of email.
I was increasingly aware that my photos were a touch contrived most days. The images weren't daily snapshots, but were being edited for variation in style and subject. Being divorced from my daily life and lacking a wider context and purpose they felt arbitrary. They weren't incidental glimpses into my world nor additions to a larger body of work. They were falling into the nebulous middle-ground known as "content". They only existed because the project dictated they existed. There was no story, no truth and — hell I'm getting really pretentious now — no art to them!
Greater and greater extremes emerged in my work over the following 14 days. When I had the inclination, time (and conditions) I made strong images that prompted a lot of feedback on Glass. Other days were a blur of commitments and terrible photos that were phoned in at the eleventh hour just to keep the streak alive.
I hated the days when I was publishing photos that didn't excite me and that I knew could be better. 21 days into the project it was clear what the rest of the year would look like and what I could expect from the remainder of the project.
My hypothesis going into the project was that simply carrying my camera every day would eventually produce good photos and bring back the spark I had once felt. A sort of brute-force method for progress and joy. I was right, but not in the way I expected.
The requirement for a daily photo was the forcing function that got my camera in hand. Camera-in-hand I then had the opportunity, but it was only when that opportunity aligned with intention that I took photos that felt like an improvement from last year.
Intention followed by considered execution was where growth was going to be found and where I was most engaged again. In the absence of other motivations, a commitment to daily-publishing worked but it was messy and demoralising most of the time.
Not particularly keen to continue riding this roller-coaster for a year, I tried to work out how this discovery could be harnessed to better accomplish the projects ambitions. I'm a strong believer in putting down a book that you aren't enjoying; there's no prize for completing it when there's so many others that might hold more promise. With that in mind I felt no qualms about abandoning my 365 challenge — it had served its purpose and had shown how I could better achieve my goals.
I've decided that a more pragmatic project would be to break out of photo-taking-autopilot and make intention the core objective. Instead of daily snapshots with no brief beyond the posting schedule, I'll be trying to adopt the style of another photographer each month.
There is a lot that I can learn in deconstructing and analysing other photographers images, and identifying how those elements can be brought into my work. Each month will present a new challenge, but also provide the space and time to experiment with different composition, equipment and post-processing; and ultimately to better learn photography.
You can find the new project over at Studies, but I'll leave some of my favourite 365 images below.