Sunday, May 16, 2010

A photo a day: my 365 project

Like many people I have creative fantasties. But also like many I get bogged down in a daily routine, and tend to believe that only weekends or vacations are available to break out of it. Of course, during those allotted times, when I'm self-consciously trying to stay unscheduled I inevitably end up, as they say, 'vegging out.' Nothing to show for it, and the weekends start blurring together. And when I do head back to work,  I pine again for some eventual day when I really will make time to be creative. Most of the time I think, well, when I retire, then I'll have enough time.

Yes, I do know how stupid this sounds (and how I'd counsel against thinking this way should a friend ask for advice). So lately I've been thinking maybe making art is kind of like losing weight: you have to fit it in to your life so that it works. Don't bother with elaborate schedule upheavals or acquiring brand-new and unfamiliar equipment. Just — make it work within what you already do.

Which is why I've arrived at a simple-sounding creative project for myself, just for fun, for the new year that begins with my birthday, which is tomorrow.  Here's my thinking.

I have long loved taking photos - the act of framing and attempting to capture an image in the world always reminds me of Dorothea Lange's great line, "A camera is a tool for learning to see without a camera." I think this is how I approach photography whenever I do it, because I am forever looking around to see what stands out, what's new that I haven't seen before, what pleases my eye - camera or no camera.

Clock repair shop on Sanchez Street. Rarely open; working cat inside.
 It's certainly never been easier to take photos and share them, and that's the other part of this project: having some discipline about uploading or send pix somewhere. This serves at least two purposes. Over time, I'll see myself what patterns emerge - what draws my eye, what describes my day or conveys a feeling I have. Sharing with others is also fine, and nominally a way to stay in touch. But I'm a bit disinclined to be ubiquitous: I see altogether too many chatty lapel-grabbers online, and that's not my intent at all.

Then there's the question of what the exercise should be: take the first thing I really can focus on each day? limit myself to one photo? find something I've never noticed before? take a bunch and pick just one to upload? In the beginning, I don't think I can commit to just one approach. I read a helpful piece on a site called Photojojo, "Project 365: How to take a photo a day and see your life in a whole new way". One helpful tip: don't worry about posting every day. Shoot daily, yes, and then post maybe a couple of times a week. Ah. That I could do without fear of inundating readers with unwelcome frequency.

I already know some things that never fail to get my attention: handmade stuff in an otherwise machine-made environment. Handpainted signs, graffiti. Funny juxtapositions. Art in unexpected places (like alley murals, or quirky window displays). Patterns within patterns. Unusual colors, decorative bits where they "shouldn't" be. You'll see all of this for sure. What I'm looking forward to is to see a bunch of it over time, so that maybe I can hone my technique and think about what comes from it.

This is how art works for everyone else who makes it. I figure it's about time I follow their lead.

So the housekeeping bits: I'll probably use Flickr, and point this blog to sets I've parked there. I'll use my Canon PowerShot SD880 IS, along with my iPhone and Nexus One to shoot and upload. I'll use Picasa Web Albums to create some 'playlists' now and again, and will comment here along the way to explain what I like about what I saw.

Now then - I'm off to look. Really look.

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