A year ago I stood at the scrolled ironwork fence at the edge of the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario and took a photo.
We were just returning from a trip to visit family in Michigan and, like clockwork, I’d picked up some sort of virus and was sick in a way I hope never to be again in a soggy hotel room. On January 1, I was just coming out of the mist of the virus that we dubbed “Douglas,” and I wanted to breathe some fresh Canadian air. Poor M and H were still in Douglas’ grip, some 30 stories up in a hotel that has a beautiful view that neither of them could appreciate that day.
I have a lot of memories of that day, largely due, I believe, to the photo I took, which anchored me to the moment (pulling my coat close around me in the drizzle, not quite snow, not quite rain), to a feeling (unfettered and a bit loose on my feet after days of being in bed), to a thought (how quiet that rushing water is when you’re so close to the edge).
The next day, home at last, I snapped another photo with my iPod, this time of a lamp’s reflection on our bedroom ceiling. And then I decided to continue. I don’t know how I did it because I’m truly lousy at resolutions and doing anything on a regular basis (diaries, exercise classes, writing projects, reading projects) and there were many days in 2016 when I didn’t feel like taking a photo, or didn’t have a good idea of a photo to take, or didn’t have my camera with me. Still somehow I managed it: 366 black -and-white photos, one a day, no faking, no fudging, not always fabulous, but a record of the year.
That project taught me many things:
- Set small goals: one photo a day is not a lot to ask.
- Always have a camera on hand; you never know when a good photo will jump out in front of you and it’s a rotten feeling when that happens and there’s no camera to record it.
- Don’t worry if you forgot your camera. Sometimes it’s just good to look with your eyes and record the moment with your heart. There will be other photo opportunities.
- Be persistent with a project even when your will is weak, when you are tired, when you are sick, when you are NOT IN THE MOOD.
- Look for light (and shadow) in new ways, look for texture and contrast, find beauty and detail aside from color.
- Don’t be afraid of repetition, of returning to favorite scenes, themes, ideas. Each version is a bit different and the accretion of repetition is beautiful.
- When it’s time for a project to end, put an ellipsis after it and then start a new one. Momentum is magical.
To that last point, I began a new daily project this past January 1, using last year’s photos to create a new found poem each day this year. I may post some of those poems/photos here from time to time, but if you want to know more about the project or to see them all, you can follow along at thefoundnow.
I have another photo project idea up my sleeve, too, but I’ll tell you about that later.
And what about you? Did you have a project last year (daily, weekly, sporadically) that brought you pleasure? Do you have plans for this year? I’d love to know. You are all so clever, and creative and inspiring; I can’t wait to hear what you’re up to.