January 01, 2008

Snap

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.

Around the lake

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.

26 comments:

Ianqui said...

Not only do you have an extraordinary eye for landscape, but your camera--point and shoot though it may be--captures an amazing depth of color that I'm consistently jealous of. I'd almost be sad to see you get a dSLR or fancier camera, because I worry that you'd lose that incredible color that I associate with your photos. I could see it if you were interested in macros or portraits, but if your focus is on landscapes and nature, then maybe you don't need to invest in new equipment.

jo(e) said...

Ianqui: Thanks for the compliment!

I think I'd probably always use a small point-and-shoot camera for landscapes and nature shots simply because I want a small camera that can be shoved into my pocket when I'm hiking -- or into a dry bag in a canoe or sailboat. I wouldn't want to take an expensive camera camping.

I do like to take portraits of the people in my life -- I just don't put them on my blog. And it would be nice to have a better camera for those shots.

It would also be nice to be able to vary more the kind of shots I take. Right now, I take mostly outdoor pictures, and always in the early morning or late afternoon light, because I know that's what my camera can handle. That's when the colour will come out the best. I'd love to be able to experiment more with other kinds of photos.

But time is still the biggest factor ....

zhoen said...

That's a wonderful idea, photo-a-day.

makingitinLA said...

I would stick to the camera you have. There is something very pure and organic about your photos that allow them to come to life when I read your accompanying text.

billie said...

I'm so glad that you have been a part of this, Jo(e). I have loved seeing your photos, and as Ianqui noted, you have such an eye for landscapes. But secondly, I'm glad you posted because you write here about writing. There is such an interesting (interesting!) connection between writing and photography that we (or at least I) haven't yet explored.

Linda said...

I object! If I get to call myself a writer, then you get to call yourself a photographer! You've taken some great photos this year. I've enjoyed the additional dimension it's added to your blog.

argon(one) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
argon(one) said...

I absolutely love your photography and your writing. They compliment each other. I am also excited that you are thinking about an SLR. You have such great compact camera shots, I think your SLR shots are going to be incredible. I keep a compact digital with me all the time. I never go anywhere without it, but I also have a digital SLR for macro shots and portraits. It's great to have both.

I'm looking forward to reading your blog in 2008. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

Overread said...

I agree - You are every bit the photographer that any one of us is. I love your images whether they come from a lens or a pen.

I was once told that the most vital piece of photographic equipment is a couple of inches behind the eyepiece. Yours works just fine.

That being said, I am a bit of a toyhound, and I could never stand against a new toy like a camera.

May your 2008 be well-imaged

Yankee T said...

what Ianqui said. Because Yankees and Ianquis have to stick together.

jayfish said...

i'm with overread, your words and photos are wonderful.

looking forward to following you through 2008.

concretegodmother said...

I guess for me writing and photography naturally go hand in hand. They are both acts of creation. (Imho, photographs are not pure reporting or documentation because they come through someone's eye/mind/soul.)

In any case, you already know I love your photography and am regularly floored by their point-and-shoot origins. I agree with makingit -- you have an organic connection with your current camera. That said, cameras are way cool...

I, too, anticipate a year of good reading/viewing. To steal from Overread, may it be a lens-and-pen kind of year!

(Btw, my word verification was "ecohoen." Of what am I being accused?)

listie said...

I love your pictures, but I also think you'd love a digital SLR. I'm always amazed at the quality of pictures RT produces with his.

susiej.com said...

I have the same relationship with photography on my blog. Photography does take so much time, and time away from writing, yet I need the photographs to add depth to the story. My camera is now broken, by the way, and I'm in the market. What a decision.

Addy N. said...

I've been enjoying your photos, too! They are wonderful. Happy New Year!

lizardek said...

I always sort of feel that when I post photos, it's being LAZY, because writing takes so much more effort (in a good way), but I still love it when others post them, and when they both post a photo AND write, it's like cake with icing on it and we all know how good that is! :D

jo(e) said...

Thanks, everyone, for all the nice things you've said about my photos.

pronetolaughter said...

Your photos actually made me break my rule about not importing photos I didn't take into my iPhoto, because some of them were so beautiful and, I like to think, the photos I would have taken if I had been there.

RageyOne said...

I tend to agree with the others. Jo(e), your landscape images are amazing and sometimes they tell a story all by themselves.

I enjoy your images and I look forward to seeing more in 2008!

Ampersand said...

Oh, I'm so happy to read about your 365 experiences. It does create an interesting sense of intimacy amongst strangers. I feel like you all are my friends now, like we could just sit down for a beverage and good conversation.

I worry about the same thing as Ianqui, if you get a new camera. I'm so jealous of those colors that you capture, but I don't want you to stop capturing them, either!!

Cloudscome said...

You have taught me so much about how to tell a story and use the photo to extend it and anchor it in place. I adore your photos just as much as your writing. I'm looking forward to following you in the new year.

Scrivener said...

I haven't commented on your photos much, but I've thought that you were a Photographer ever since you posted that scanned photo of Shaggy Hair Boy and the canoes. You have a great eye, and much as I enjoy your writing, there have been times where I have been curious what would happen if you'd trust your photos as photos more and just post them all by themselves, more because I think that would be something that you find difficult and challenging than for any other reason.

Lorianne said...

I'm arriving late to the comment-party, but I wanted to nod in agreement to what you've said, Jo(e). I consider myself a writer, not a photographer, and I have no intentions of getting anything more complex than a point-and-shoot digicam that fits in my purse. (That being said, I just upgraded my camera...but it's still point-and-shoot & purse-sized. I wouldn't know what to do with interchangeable lenses & such.)

Yes, writing with images changes your writing, but I don't think it's a bad change. If nothing else, I find myself focusing more on concrete things because they can be photographed, thereby offering a new approach to "no ideas but in things."

I love your statement about using the camera like a journal: that's it exactly. Photos add another nuance/wrinkle to what you say: I think good photography adds to rather than detracts from the text. Your blog has always struck me as a good mix of the two: a synergism rather than conflict.

BeachMama said...

And you should invest in a new DSLR camera. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous and you tell just as much of a story with them as you do with your words. Your talent stretches both ways.

Rev Dr Mom said...

What everyone else said...your pictures are awesome, point and shoot or not. I think your pictures and words compliment each other, so it seems to be time well spent. I hope you keep it up.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Your pictures ARE awesome! They are really good, you have a great eye!