Life Captured 365 is the most ambitious project I’m working on in 2017. This is my first time doing a 365 project, a popular undertaking in the photography community. I’ve done shorter daily projects but was always hesitant to commit to the full year.
It’s not that it’s difficult or new territory for me — I have a lot of experience with documentary photography. As a young adult I spent three summers as the resident photographer at a summer camp, documenting camp life by taking thousands of photos every day to share on slide shows and the camp website. Documenting my daily life has become second nature to me in many ways, so taking one photo every day should be no trouble at all. So far it hasn’t proved difficult to take the photos. I carry my camera around with me most of the day and at various times the opportunity to get a great shot will present itself.
The difficulty with this project is endurance. It’s easy in the beginning with the excitement of starting a new project. And it’s easy to do a project in the summer, or at Christmas, as I’ve done, because those are exciting times to be documenting. I am concerned I will be uninspired by April, or by November, where there has been nothing but weeks of rain and nothing new going on in my very small home. My hope is that this project will maintain it’s momentum because I will be documenting small, everyday moments. My 100 Summer Days project was specifically to document the spirit of summer and all our adventures and trips. For that project I often pushed myself to get the kids out of the house for something novel and exciting to shoot. By the end of the summer we were exhausted. With this project it is my goal that I will photograph daily life rather than plan things to shoot. I will also try not to worry about taking similar pictures repeatedly throughout the year; repetition of daily routines is part of life and it’s only natural I will have multiple of the same type of photo. I struggle to allow myself to keep shooting the mundane. My hope is that the completed collection will be meaningful as a whole. I plan to create a photobook for myself as a keepsake of this year.
Another challenge with this 365 project is photo selection. As I said, it usually isn’t difficult for me to take many photos in the span of a day. I knew going in that one of the hardest parts would be narrowing it down to one. To make it easier I have decided on some criteria which each photo will meet. They will all be portraits. This doesn’t just mean faces, it can be people’s hands, feet, or backs. It could include animal portraits. Most photos will be of my children since it’s my goal to document their lives; however, I will likely be including friends and family members and some self-portraits as well. The focus will be on story telling. I’m well-practiced at dressing my kids up, standing them in nice light in a great location and taking a beautiful photo. But this project will be about documenting what is happening in front of me, rather than planning or posing. I believe there’s merit in both methods and will continue to do both, but the images in this collection will be unstructured and organic. I will do minimal editing. I usually enjoy taking out unnecessary elements in a photo and altering the images to create more perfect photos — cloning, head swaps, composites. These photos will be adjusted but not altered in any big ways. Hopefully this minimal editing will mean I won’t get too far behind in posting the photos.
The most obvious and unique feature of my 365 portraits will be that they will all be in black and white. This was a choice I made for several reasons. Firstly, I chose to keep the photos consistent so that the final product will be a cohesive collection. They will all be in landscape orientation, black and white conversions. I decided that black and white suited the style of the project well; I’ve always loved black and white photography, especially for documentary images. The sources of light in these images will vary significantly and many will be shot indoors. I don’t enjoy shooting indoors, especially in my own home which is very small and dark. In black and white I can overlook those less than ideal circumstances and just focus on documenting the moment.
Lastly, I made the choice to shoot in black and white as a way to challenge myself with skill building. Colour is a major element of my photography. I often put a lot of thought into wardrobe, location, and background elements based on colour. I often use colour as a way to make my subjects stand out. This year I wanted to work on other elements. I will be focusing on light and shadow, contrast, lines, and framing. The major factor in all photos is the light, and in black and white photography it becomes even more important. Some photos that look lovely in colour end up being dull when converted to black and white. Having to convert my photos to black and white also helps me in selecting which photo to use from the day. There is usually one that stands out above the others.
I’m 36 days into this project, so nearly 10% of the way through the year. I’ve learned a lot already. I’ve had to let go of perfectionism in photography and that has probably been the most important lesson so far. I’ve captured moments that would have otherwise been forgotten. I’ve worked on appreciating the beauty in the mundane. As I’m telling the story of our daily life, it is my hope that my friends and family will enjoy seeing our behind the scenes, not just our highlight reel. I also hope that people who don’t know me yet will see things they can relate to in their own lives. I’m enjoying being part of the Life Captured 365 community and following other photographer working on this project. As photographers we are often there to document the big things — weddings, pregnancies, new babies. But we know that most of life is made up of the little things and those deserve to be captured also. I hope many of you will enjoy following this project over on Instagram @ashleymcmath365.