Five months ago, as the year 2011 was approaching, I made a promise to myself – I would start a Daily uploads set on Flickr, and update it every day. I had wanted to do a 365 day project for a long time, and had been bouncing off ideas for a while. I knew it would be hard – so I gave myself some flexibility. Here is the description I wrote for the Daily uploads set:
Trying to upload at least one photo a day (or 7 a week). I have too many photos worth sharing that have never seen the light of day… Any comment would be appreciated 🙂
As you can probably guess, one of the risks would have been to miss a day or two because of lack of internet access, decrease of motivation, simply forgetting – or some other ‘unforeseen circumstances’. However, I believe it doesn’t make sense to quit just because you couldn’t make it on time once or twice. You can make up for it – you can even edit the ‘upload dates’ to feel less guilty. The idea is more important – just keep doing it, day by day. Teach yourself a creative habit.
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I’d achieve anything. What I knew however, was that if I don’t do it now, I’d never do it. I have a massive archive of photos, and lots of them have never been shown to another human being. They are not perfect – some are very daily, some are just technically good. But good enough to share. And good enough not to hide from the world. If I cared enough to take a picture – someone else might also feel moved or share a smile. So why not give them this chance?
My primary motivation was ‘breaking up with the past’ – I wanted to be aware, to have a visual idea of what there is in my archive. There are lots of pictures I have taken and forgotten – and some of them are actually quite good. This was worrying me – somewhere in the back of my mind, this was blocking me from taking new challenges. I would tell to myself: ‘You have all these thousands of pictures already, and you haven’t done anything with them – why would you need any more?’
That’s counterproductive. I didn’t want this anymore. And this is something I tell myself almost every day: ‘When this year ends, you’ll be free.’ It could take less time – I may feel the creative unblock earlier. But after being there for a few years, I know it’s worth it to invest a couple more months – if that’s the price I need to pay to have the rest of my life unblocked (at least in terms of photography), so be it.
To make things easier (and to add a bit of structure), I needed some rules for the photos. They didn’t need to be masterpieces – but when I scan through a folder of pictures, whenever my eyes landed on something, I’d put it in a ‘Photos worth flickring’ folder. The aim is next year, if I scan my archive again, to no longer have these burried gems. If my eyes land on a picture for its colours, light, or interestingness, it should be uploaded to Flickr.
I invented a system to keep me from getting lost in my archive. And by archive, I mean 20 DVDs’ worth of photos. That’s a lot! I tend to keep all the technically good images, and it quickly builds up. So in order to find some structure in this mess, I decided on the following rule: At the start of the month, I would go through all the pictures taken the same time in previous years – so for example, just before the first of May, I scanned all my ‘2006 – May’, ‘2007 – May’, etc. folders. This also means that the pictures I upload have a common feeling – they were taken at similar light / weather conditions as the current month. It can also help me identify my ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ periods (as well as places). For example, I know that March and October are months I usually take lots of photos – because the nature is changing, the sun is low (resulting in more interesting shadows and adding depth to the images), there are more intense colours in the sky, plus the weather is also nice enough to go for photowalks.
The results so far
One of the benefits of this project has been improving my colour correction skills. It may not sound grand – but you’d be surprised what can be extracted from seemingly bland and boring pictures (I colour correct almost every picture I upload). Plus, we have to admit – the world is not always as colourful as we imagine it to be. What is more, sometimes the camera just can’t cope with the lighting conditions – so it only registers, documents the light. This is usually my case – I have never been able to afford a high quality camera (plus I can’t justify this expense yet) – so I’d make sure I make the picture as good as I can with what I have, and improve it in post-production.
For most of the photos, the only changes I make are colour correction and light balance / levels – I don’t apply filters, I don’t deal with montages. I don’t even make panorama stiches. I also don’t always need to crop. I work with single still images – starting with the available light and colours, and enhancing them to create a better looking picture.
What I also noticed was, even when I’m exhausted, and can’t do anything else – I am still able to achieve interesting or usable results when editing a photograph. What is more, some of my most interesting pictures were edited when I was feeling very sad or upset – so in my case, these emotions are brought out in the editing process. It almost has a ‘cathartic’ effect – and is definitely a better and more productive thing to do than sitting helpless and blocked.
The most important result however, is feedback – and connecting with people. I’ve started receiving comments on my photos – something I haven’t had for years. And I am often surprised of people’s reactions. There are pictures that I uploaded there ‘just because it’s good enough’, and I didn’t feel they were any special – but often I’d get the most interesting comments for them. Sometimes I would upload a photo that I really love – something I’m very proud of, either in terms of technical achievement or meaning – and it would receive zero attention. Because, everyone reacts differently – and we create the meaning within our own heads, based on our experiences or emotional circumstances. This feedback is priceless. I’ve learned so much from people’s comments and observations – both about my photography and about people.
Photography can be either an art or a craft. In its art form, it’s more important to please the author – because the author is the one who needs it. He is the one that benefits from the process of self expression. In its craft form, however, it is more important what the audience thinks – it is meant for them, aimed at them – and it is usually there to serve a purpose. It either informs, entertains, or is aimed at attracting people’s attention. It is interesting when the two purposes combine – but I personally prefer to have them separately. That way, I know better what I’m looking for when framing a shot – it’s always good to know who your work is meant for.
In conclusion, the last five months have shown me that persistence pays off. Especially if it’s something you enjoy and believe in. They have also equipped me with new artistic tools – and helped me explore myself.
Here is today’s photo in my #dailyuploads Flickr set.