Wednesday, 30 December 2009

365 Resolutions

LexxYou are probably thinking about new year's resolutions about now. Photographically one of the more popular resolutions is to start a 365 project where you undertake to take a photo every day. Starting a 365 project is very much like giving up smoking. Giving up smoking is easy, I have done it hundreds of times. Starting a 365 project is easy, completing one is hard. In a way it is more difficult than giving up smoking because giving up smoking requires positive action to break your resolution, you have to get off your arse and spend money to break it. However a 365 project requires daily action to keep the resolution going. My own experience of starting a 365 project was not very positive and I found that in some ways it dampened my enthusiasm.

The first hurdle was remembering that I was doing a 365 project, it would get close to midnight and I would remember and then have to suddenly get creative with just a few minutes to go. The output from these nocturnal sessions wasn't exactly the best and then I would have to show these paltry efforts on flickr. If this wasn't damaging enough, actually missing a day was pretty bad. I tried to tell myself that I could set the counter back to 1 but the project increasingly became a chore that I could have done without and after an embarrassingly short amount of time I quit. I remember keenly how hard it was to give up smoking, so why introduce that sort of pain for something that I love doing?

I'm not saying that 365 projects are bad, just that you need to approach them with a modest amount of time management, perseverance and not worry too much about the output. I dare say that many a photographer has blossomed through doing a 365 project and the all or nothing nature of the project may well help them get motivated to shoot every day. Also their fear of showing sub-standard work may well push them to see better and be more creative. It also has to be said that 365 projects have a lot of support because lots of people are doing them. However there may be a better way for you.

What are the goals of a 365 project? To take more photographs? To enhance your skills through practice. To hone your vision or develop a style? These are things that you can resolve to do without the psychological burden of a 365 project. What you need is a definable goal. Something that doesn't mean failure of the entire project if you slip up. Something that doesn't require you to show your poorest quality work just because you need to meet a deadline.

So what am I going to do this year? I'm going to photograph all the streets within a half mile of my office and I'll do it during my lunchbreak. It sounds like a lot, but I managed to walk every street within a mile in just a few months, so it should be achievable. If I don't manage to do them all, its no big deal I can carry on into the next year.

I'll only show the best shots, however I think that many of the streets will have slim pickings in terms of awesome shots. So I'm going to take a leaf out of a fabulous book called Barbershops by Tally Abecassis and Claudine Sauvé. It has shown me the way. Sometimes unpromising photographs will work if they are part of a collection, the trick is to shoot them in the same way. In Barbershops this is done to great effect, mixing straight record shots as typographies with beautiful wide, medium and detail shots to tell the story.

So I plan to do a series of typographies of items you will find in the street, for example, doors, doorbells and anything else that come to mind. These will be displayed alongside wider shots of the street and other detail shots taken with a more unique style.

The thing about this plan is that I'm not forced to do anything every day, there is a well defined goal and there is a timeslot set aside in the day for me to do it. Also I should have a unified body of work at the end of it. What could possibly go wrong?

Let me know if you plan to do something like this yourself. Or tell us your own experiences of a 365 project.


  1. Nice post.

    One of the reason I didn't start 365 yet is because if I ever do, it will be planned out to a T. If you don't plan ahead with this, it will be doomed to failure.

    Happy New You Paulo, and you should post a linky to this in our Group.

  2. My 365 lasted 139 days. I stopped a few days ago. It was hugely valuable in that I forced myself to take a lot of photos that I otherwise wouldn't have, but eventually the frustration of posting crappy photos just because I needed an image for the day even though I didn't have the time, was the killer. I got a lot out of it, but its time to move on.

    Good luck with your project!

  3. HI Paulo,

    It's exactly that kind of thought that's prevented me commiting to a 365 type project. I did something a couple of years ago with another hobby, cycling, which meant 6 out of 7 days I had to be out on the bike training, rather than riding for the fun of it. It was the day off I looked forward to.

    Fast forward a year, and I found myself cycling once again for pleasure, maintaing the frequency and increasing the miles.

    I like the idea of your barbershops-esque project, I've had an idea for such things relating to bikes and cars, 2010 will be the year. I'll report back with how I get on.

  4. I found your blog via Flickr. P365 is definitely tough, I've tried it 3 times and have failed each time! But here I am, on New Year's Eve, planning to start again. Good luck! Your project sounds very cool. I love looking for those interesting details.

  5. I can relate to all the points you raise, Paulo. But having said all that, I've still managed to complete my 2nd consecutive Project365 and have no plans to stop. Why?

    Well, precisely because it does motivate me to get off my arse every day and try and think of something to shoot. I'm basically very lazy, but somehow the discipline of a 365 has worked its way into my psyche and now I can't stop. It's about the only thing I've ever stuck to for this long (731 days and counting!).

    Sure, some days are crappy. But like you say, viewed as a whole body of work, even the mundane shots have their place and somehow the sum is greater than the parts :-)

  6. Great post Paulo. I thought long and hard about a 365 project and then figured that at least half of them would stink for the reasons you mentioned. Maybe a 52 project though... One a week. Gotta start somewhere!

  7. previous to my 365, i had already been shooting every day for the last 3 months. i used to post several photos each time.

    thus if anything, the project taught me to be a better editor.

    however now that it's over... i would never do it again.