Yesterday J and I walked to Newton Centre for lunch, taking pictures along the way. We saw an odd assortment of lost or castoff objects: a baseball tossed from someone’s backyard, a dropped jar of peanut butter, a row of unwanted paint cans and plastic storage bins, a leather loveseat. In the aftermath of January thaw, walking with a camera feels a bit like a scavenger hunt, where your goal is simply to collect images of whatever interesting detritus you encounter. By the time J and I arrived our lunch destination, I felt like we’d already been fed one kind of sustenance: the creative inspiration of found objects.
Although I habitually carry a camera with me everywhere, this year I’m more consciously aware of the practice, having decided to attempt a 365-day photo challenge: in 2013, I’m committing to take and post to Flickr at least one photo every day for 365 consecutive days. Since I’m already in the habit of taking lots of pictures, the thought of taking 365 photos in 2013 isn’t daunting: in 2012, after all, I posted 1,714 photos to Flickr. For me, taking 365 photos is easy; the challenge lies in sharing photos from 365 days.
Looking back on last year’s photo archives, there are radical fluctuations in the number of photos I took from month to month. Last February, instance, I posted only eight photos to Flickr whereas in August, I posted 304. Some months seem more photogenic than others, and some months I don’t have as much time to take (or at least post) a lot of photos. Looking at Flickr’s calendar view of any given month, I see how I tend to take photographs in spurts: on a single day in August when I visited the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, for instance, I took 146 photos, which is more than I took in the entire month of April. If you’re shooting photos for a blog or photo archive, you don’t have to worry about taking photos every day: as long as you have enough photos from last week, last month, or even last year to show on-blog, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you shot any images today.
What I’m liking (already) about this still-embryonic 365-day challenge is how it’s forcing me to re-think this idea that I don’t need to take photos today if I still have photos from yesterday. Although my blog may not care whether I shot any pictures today, my 365-day challenge does. Regardless of how many photos I shot yesterday, I still need to shoot something today, and anything I shoot today won’t count for tomorrow’s goal: all that matters is today. So far this year, I’ve already gotten into the habit of shooting early and often, taking some easy morning shots (usually of sleeping cats) that I know I have on hand just in case I don’t have time (or can’t find inspiration) to shoot something more interesting later. Knowing I have those easy morning shots to fall back on has given me the impetus to find (and photograph) something more interesting later, if only to prove to myself that I don’t need to rely on easy shots.
I’ve written before about how the first photo you take on a given day breaks the ice so you can take more photos, and I’m finding that to be particularly true with this 365-day challenge. When you know you already have a photo you can share today, that gives you the freedom to take other, even better photos. Given the easy “gimme” shots you took in the morning, you want to find something better, more interesting, or more photo-worthy to share instead. Promising to take one photo a day ends up spurring you to take multiple photos on any given day: the more photos you take, the more selective you can be when it comes to picking your favorite. Instead of posting “what I have,” I can share “what I liked”: that one shot out of several that piqued my attention. As a result, I’ve already posted more photos during the first two weeks of January, 2013 than I did the entire month of January, 2012.
Only a few weeks into this year-long photo challenge, I’m realizing it’s an exercise in trust as much as discipline. If I’m faithful in taking and sharing a photo today, do I really believe the Universe will provide something interesting or photogenic for me to shoot tomorrow? Shooting and sharing a photo a day reminds me of the prohibition God made when he fed the wandering Israelites manna from heaven: gather all you can eat today, but don’t hoard any for tomorrow. Even as a child, I fretted over this Bible story, knowing I’d be the type to squirrel away a secret stash “just in case” tomorrow’s promised harvest failed. Although I still stockpile photos for my blog, I know as long as I’m doing this photo challenge, I’ll have to shoot something fresh tomorrow, the next day, and the next. I’m curious to see how desperate, creative, or desperately creative I’ll get as the year continues, the novelty of this project wears off, and I start running out of “obvious” pictures to take. How deeply can I trust my intrinsic belief that this moment and the next and the next is truly like no other?
The photo at the top of this post is today’s Day 15 photo; the other photos come from either today or yesterday. Here is the Flickr photo-set where I’m posting my daily photos in case you want to keep track with my progress. (Please note that while I’m committing to SHOOT each day’s photo by midnight Eastern time, I might not get around to POSTING it until a day or so later, depending on when I’m able to upload photos. Luckily, Flickr automatically registers when a photo was taken, so I won’t be able to cheat with post-dated images.)