Even though I originally learned photography on film oh-so-many years ago (over two decades!), I hadn’t actually shot anything on film in quite a while. Because I was always developing my film work myself (can you believe it use to be cheaper for me to rent darkroom space by the hour and do it myself than to send it in to a lab??), I hadn’t ventured much outside the world of black and white film. I really want to learn about different color stocks, metering for different scenes, and how the colors and tones of particular films can change depending on your exposure. So, last spring, I purchased FIND In A Box and got to clickin’. Basically, it was amazing. Frustrating and disheartening at times, too, but overall amazing.
One of the things Jonathan advocates for in the course is the importance of personal projects to keep yourself motivated, continue learning and practicing, and to just find the joy in shooting again. I’m still working on figuring out a good short-term project for myself but I had an idea for a long-term project almost immediately: a 365 Film Project for 2017. One photo a day, everyday, on film, for an entire year. This idea was inspired by Angelica Chang‘s amazing 365 project she’s been sharing on Instagram (also all on film) for the last year. It appealed to me not just because it gave me a good excuse to practice with different films and cameras, but it also provided an opportunity to capture childhood memories for our little guy. I don’t really recall seeing a lot of photos from my childhood until I was an adult. We didn’t have albums stacked on the shelves, shoe boxes overflowing in the closet, or hallways plastered with printed memories. I saw a handful here and there over the years but not many and not often. I’ve recently realized it’s part of the reason I’m so drawn to photography. The ability to time travel in real life, to revisit a place, a person, a moment, no matter how seemingly insignificant it was at the time, that has long since passed us by. That is the essence of what childhood photos mean to me.
But there was just one problem. I’m notoriously terrible at maintaining long-term photo projects. When I’ve tried something like this in the past, whether a 52 Weeks project or a one-photo-a-day-for-a-month project, I would either forget about it after a few days or become so paralyzed by my lack of ideas that I’d just give up. In fact, I attempted to start a 365 Project back in August and made it exactly three weeks! I realized that, in order to make it work, I needed some sort of guidance, some parameters to provide motivation and inspiration on the days when I had nothing. So, I gave myself a few rules.
First, the overall goals: To document our daily life, the good and the not-so-good; to connect more intimately with the world around me; and to push myself creatively in mastering film. Next, the gear: film cameras only (35mm, medium format, disposable, Fuji Instax, whatever as long as it produced an image on film). And finally, the prompts. I gave myself a prompt for each day of the week (Monday – Indoors; Tuesday – Food, and so on) so when I hit a day where I just felt stuck, I could return to those prompts to generate some ideas. If I feel compelled to shoot something else on that particular day, awesome, and if not, just stick to the prompts. I also forgave myself in advance for skipping days, because missing a day was inevitable, and allowed myself to skip up to two consecutive days so long as I make up for them later in the week.
So far, it’s working! I’m officially on Day 59, which is the longest I’ve gone on any kind of personal project (diets and exercise programs included!) and I haven’t missed more than two days at all the last two months. Prompts are definitely the way to go! And now that I’ve established it as a daily habit, I’m feeling drawn to more contemplative and intentional shooting. My little “up the ante” goal for March is to pay particular attention to my compositions and be a better curator of shots before I actually click the shutter button (i.e. no wasted frames!). I can slowly feel myself crossing the line from “a project that I have to do” to “a project that gets me excited to pick up my camera” and that’s exactly the kind of mental shift I was hoping for when I started. So, without further ado, here are my first three weeks of shots, January 1-21. There’s a little bit of a lag time in sharing since I’m shooting mostly 35mm (36 frames per roll) and need to send the film in for development but the delayed gratification kind of adds to the magic of the project. It’s fun to see what little treasures my personal time machine captured weeks after the fact!
Do you have any personal projects (photo or otherwise) you’re working on this year? Any tips for staying motivated and consistent? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
1/365 – Ice Cream for Lunch
2/365 – Cooking | 3/365 – Winter Fruit Bowl
4/365 – A Training Manual of Sorts | 5/365 – Some Rain Must Fall
6/365 – Brush-a Brush-a Brush-a
7/365 – Still Raining
8/365 – Portrait of a Peacock
9/365 – Expressing Gratitude | 11/365 – First In-the-Round Project
10/365 – The Day He Discovered Fudge
12/365 – Are You Done With This Project Yet, Mom? | 14/365 – Just One Without the Pacifier
13/365 – Cotton Candy Skies
15/365 – Swiiiiiiiing!!!
16/365 – Carnations, So Underrated
17/365 – Ready for the Close-up
18/365 – After the Storm
19/365 – Bears and Rain Bokeh
20/365 – Pastel Life
21/365 – My Love Language