The Internet has been for quite some time now a place where stupid phrases have become memes, or crazy ideas have become popular things to do by many people. 365 is one of these crazy ideas.
The idea of a “365 Project”, at least in the context I want to talk about, is to take a photo every single day of the year, and upload them somewhere as a collection of those objects, moments, concepts, that are notorious or worthy for that specific day. There are many groups in Flickr that are worth checking, and some of them even impose some kind of constraint, e.g. only selfportraits, no portraits at all, only manipulated photographs, etc.
From the first of January until the last of December, I made my own 365 project. Why did I start it? I’m not sure right now, I don’t exactly remember. I’ve been doing things related to cinematography since a few years back, but still photography was kind of new to me, so I guess what I was looking for was a bit of self-discipline, or better said, self-imposition. As I once read in the book Story1:
Robert Frost said that writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down, because self-imposed requests of poetic conventions, which are actually artificial, are what arouses imagination.
That is, creativity comes from making decisions and taking choices in a limited environment. There are thousands of ways of artificially creating these impositions, and I probably felt that taking a photo every day for a whole year is one of these ways. Not better, not worse, just a different way.
So it’s already 2010, and I managed to get to the end of it. The result is my 365 days Flickr set. I’m proud of it in the sense that it reflects what 2009 has been for me, day by day. My experiences, my world, my projects, my work, my trips, even those days that nothing seems to go well, most of all of these, is in there. There are even some nice pictures in there, and among those there are a few that will be of a great significance for me, forever.
So, if the question is if it was worth it, well, the answer is yes.
However, in my particular case, it has been hard as hell at some points. Taking a photo per day might seem easy at a first thought. But this is not the best idea if you’re really busy, and I’ve been involved in a lot of different things during 2009. Combine that will a little bit of self-exigence, and some days can get really, really hard. Most of the days, I’ve spent quite a good part of the day thinking about the picture of the day, and trying to get a shot at the level of your best ones doesn’t make it any easier. And when you have a very rough day, then it’s the worst possible scenario, because you know that you’re not going to get any decent photo and that really undermines your motivation.
And motivation is the driving force that can get you to the end. I can’t say that I was at any moment close to quitting it, because I’ve never missed bringing my camera with me, or thinking about the next photo when I’ve had the opportunity. No, I was quite safe at that. But motivation has sometimes held me from looking at my shots in Lightroom, or from uploading that small bunch I had left ready for Flickr. I’ve had unjustifiable delays, considering the fact that the most difficult part, which is shooting everyday, was always done.
Because the most important thing is the raw material that you get from the camera. If that is wrong, then whatever result comes from that will be wrong as well. So, from my experience, 365 is not a project to look for a perfectly post-processed photo, but to look how well you can get the best possible raw material at the moment of shooting. Because it’s a daily project. There are lots of quite post-processed photos in my 365 set, but that’s my mistake. If you have the time and/or you know exactly what you’re doing, then go ahead. Otherwise, just concentrate on your technique with the camera.
As a result of all the negative issues I’ve just pointed out, quite a big bunch of less-than-decent photos are accompanying those that make me proud. But it’s not such a big deal. Because, as I said earlier, the final global result is worth it. And now, after a few days, and looking at it at a bit of distance, it’s quite an achievement.
It’s not just an achievement because I now have a nice set to make a book with, if I ever decide to. No, it’s more an achievement because if you’re going to shoot 365 photos in consecutive days, and you are in disposition of learning, you will learn. And that’s probably the most important outcome. Whatever shooting device you use, be it a Nikon D3 or an iPhone, you will learn.
I’ve done technical tests and setups I would have not dared to do otherwise, probably just because I’ve had too many things to do apart from them. And, more importantly, I’ve progressed in thinking about the final post-processed photo way before touching the camera, way before looking though the viewfinder.
So, if you are reading this because you’re thinking about embarking yourself into this project, and your objective is to learn and are capable of investing a lot of time thinking and working with photographs, don’t think twice and do it.
One thing though: be ready to go for it until the end, because that’s what it is about. And if you’re on Flickr, this is important: join 365 groups and participate. They tend to be places with lots of interactivity going on, many times with useful feedback, and where the chances of learning are multiplied. I was in a couple of them, but 365 Community is a great place to be, not too massified and really really active.
As a final remark, I would like to express my gratitude to all the people that have been giving me feedback and, directly or indirectly, encouraging me to continue till the end. Without this support, I really don’t know if I would have made it.
- Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting (Robert McKee, 1997) ↩