“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”
– Ralph Hattersley
I love photography. Everything about the process has always fascinated me. I love squinting through the viewfinder, framing the scene in front of me. I’m always composing the shot in my mind. I’m addicted to those quick decisions, sometimes calculated and sometimes intuitive, of which settings to use — my fingers spinning the dials in manic delight. I feel a rush of adrenaline whenever there’s a camera in my hand, my finger on the shutter. Most of all I love that decisive moment, the one where I press down and click. That click: anticipation and then release. Did I get the shot? That’s the last part — comparing the vision with the result. The more I master the skills of the art, the smaller that gap becomes. You’ll hear a lot of photographers say things about taking photos and capturing moments. I’ve never quite felt that was an adequate description of the thing. Photography isn’t just taking or capturing what’s there; it’s creating something new. It’s the art of sculpting something tangible and lasting out of light. It’s noticing the light reflecting off of objects in 1/500th or maybe 1/2000th of a second and using that light to tell a story.
The 365 images I took this year for this project, they all tell the story of this time in our lives. Nothing exceptional happened this year. 2018 was almost unprecedented it it’s ordinariness. I feel thankful, blessed, to have a had a year where nothing significant happened. It’s the gentle, peaceful era that our children will remember as the simpler time of their childhood. We biked to school, read books, played instruments, cuddled our cat, played at the beach. We had visits with friends and family and took small trips to delightful places. There were snow days, rainy days, and golden sunsets. I made photographs that represent this beautiful ordinary life.
This project started out as a documentary project. It’s called Life Captured 365, as I joined a group for it last year with that name. I’m feeling that it has evolved more into a self-expression lifestyle project than strictly a documentary project. While I do take photos of our everyday life, I prefer the artistry of setting up the shot more than just waiting for moments to happen. Sometimes telling a story is best with a skilled storyteller to carefully choose the words. Whereas last year I tried to keep the photos for my 365 more documentary, unplanned and unposed, this year I found myself struggling to keep to that goal. There are a mixture of planned and unplanned shots in this series and I wonder if it’s evident to my audience which are which. After the fact, I’m not even sure my kids can remember.
It took a while, but I did print my 2017 365 as a photo book. Gracie eagerly examined it cover to cover. Seeing our year in print, each day carefully documented, each small moment forever preserved, really brought the importance of this project to new light. This isn’t just a creative project for me to practice taking pictures. Certainly, doing a 365 has that advantage. In truth, this is my legacy. This is how I am telling our story. This is what I’m leaving my children. It’s art and it’s family history. It’s a visual declaration of everything that matters. Ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred years from now, we will have changed, the world will have changed, but these photographs will still be the same.
“If you want to learn what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph.”
Whether you consider yourself a photographer, a mom with a camera, or an iphonographer, I challenge you to take portraits with intention more often. Anyone can do a 365 project; start right now! Make photographs of the people you love. Create images of them being themselves, doing all the things you love doing with them. Tell the story of your lives together. Take photos on Saturday mornings before anyone has brushed their hair. Take photos when you’re caught out in the rain. Bring your camera to the grocery store, to school drop off, on the bus, to the doctor’s office. You never know when you’ll feel inspired. When there are special days, contemplate what is special about them and plan your photos to reflect that. Make your vacation photos count; don’t just capture where you are, tell the story of who you are while you’re there. Show the excitement, show the joy, show those tender moments, and those all-too-real ones.
Most of all, make photos that show all the love between the people you love and the people who love them. Maybe you’ll be teased for always having a camera in your hand during family visits. Bring it anyway. Take photos of your children with their grandparents. Take photos of your children with their parents — including yourself! Create photos that show the love in your family. If you watch carefully, even the most rivalrous of siblings will give each other a loving touch now and then. You are a bard: a storyteller, a historian, a poet who writes with pixels. Make photographs that matter to you; turn light into legacy.
If you’re inspired to try a 365 this year (yes! you can start now! doesn’t matter if it’s not January 1st!) check out my post from last year for more information about the process and my experience doing my first 365.
Happy New Year!