They are people I've never met. But I feel like I know them. Because I've been looking at photos they've taken, one photo every day all year long.
At the beginning of last year, I noticed bloggers talking about the 365 photo project. The goal of the project was to snap a photo every single day and post it to a blog. By mid-January, I was reading a bunch of 365 blogs.
It was fascinating to catch glimpses into the lives of people I'd never met. I'd click on Ianqui's 365 blog to see shots of Big City Like No Other, often taken from unexpected angles. Her portraits of strangers always made me wonder what narratives lay behind the people in the pictures. Bright Star has said that she appreciates the flowers in the northeast because she grew up in the desert, and just looking at all her photos of flowers made me see in a new way these plants I've known my whole life. I wasn't looking Julie Unplugged's photos for long before I realized that she and I were at similar stages in our lives, raising teenagers and letting go of adult children. I could practically smell the hay in Ampersand's barn photos. I was often surprised at how Jayfish or Overread could take incredibly shots of very ordinary bits of life. And I was touched by the emotional journey that Billie was taking through her photos.
Inspired by the 365 photo bloggers, I took a photo each day last year. Well, usually I took more than one photo: using a digital camera is way too much like eating popcorn. I took photos every single day, and most days, I posted one of those photos to my blog. I didn't set up a separate 365 blog because I am a writer, not a photographer. I use a point-and-shoot camera, and I don't have Photoshop either. I used photos as writing prompts rather than stand-by-themselves blog posts, so I wasn't exactly following the 365 rules. I am not so good at following rules.
But still, I liked hanging out at the edge of the 365 community, looking at their photos, imagining narratives that might go with their photos, and absorbing that creative energy. I was curious to see what photography could teach me about writing.
I found that a few months into the year, I was using my camera the way I have always used journals. I'd snap a photo of something as a reminder to write about that experience. (Sometimes neither the photo nor the piece of writing was something that ended up on my blog.) I tend to take photos that show landscapes and seasonal change, since connection to place is something I write about. And mostly, I take photos that tell a story, because narrative is what interests me.
The photos did change what I'd write. I never realized before just how much I like to write lyrical descriptions about place. I'd start to write a bunch of descriptive details and then I'd say to myself, "Oh, wait. I'm using a photo that shows the place. So no point in describing it." I think my usual mode of writing is to describe to readers an image inside my head, and it's a bit disconcerting when that image is a photo that the readers are going to see. Suddenly, I've got to come up with something else.
The drawback to taking photos each day is that it took time away from writing, and that's one reason that I am hesitant to invest more time or money into a decent camera or photoshop. Time is such a valuable commodity in my life. But then ... when I went for a walk at Pretty Colour Lake the other day with my friend Poet Woman and her husband, they let me play with their cameras and lenses. I took macro shots of broken ice! I took action shots of Tall Bearded running down the beach. I zoomed in to foucs on ducks on the surface of the lake. It was so cool to have all these options! And I have to admit, I found myself planning what camera to buy next. Because even though photography can be time-consuming, I can think of worse ways to spend my time than walking outside on an overcast day, searching for beauty.
Here is one of the few photos that I took with my own camera on my walk with Poet Woman. I spent most of my time playing with her cameras.