I am not a quitter. More accurately, I don't wish to be perceived as a quitter.
My fear of failure is greater than my tendency to overshare, so I haven't told you about my latest photography project. I feared I would quit before I finished it, and then you would know I'm a quitter.
But I'm not going to quit.
On January 1, I started a Project 365. My goal is to take one photo per day for an entire year. Today is day 90, and I'm still going strong.
I hoped to achieve two things with this project. I wanted to develop a habit of bringing my camera with me, and I wanted to improve my photography through constant practice. I've made progress in both.
Although this project intrigued me, I was terrified of it. I saw no way I would stick with it. I had tried a Project 52--one photo per week--last year, with lackluster results. In the Project 52, I followed an online group's weekly prompts. Somewhere in the teens, I started submitting any old thing I'd taken regardless of the prompt. By the early twenties, I gave up altogether.
If I couldn't take 52 photos, what insanity made me think I'd take 365?
In a small photography Facebook group, I admitted my desire and my fear. I asked if anyone could encourage me to try it. Within a few hours, I had my recipe for success--people who share my passion and anxiety.
I created a Facebook support group for photographers wanting to start a Project 365. Unlike many other groups, ours has only a single rule--be nice. Each photographer sets his or her own rules for this personal project. Some use daily prompts, some don't. Some use their DSLR, while some use their camera phone. Some post daily, some only occasionally. What's important is that we share the experience and encourage each other. These photographers made me stick with this daunting project.
I made the project easier for myself by setting only one rule: one photo per day. Any photo counts. While my goal is to take a breathtaking DSLR photo every day, it's not my reality. On many days, the best I can achieve is an iPhone snapshot, and that's good enough for me.
What I've Learned
When I started this project, I thought I would most enjoy documenting my family's daily life. Many photographers wax poetic about capturing the little details or documenting fleeting moments. That sounded good to me.
To date, nearly half of my Project 365 photos have been of my children. I'm grateful I've had my camera at moments I once might have missed, and I know that I'll be happy to have these photos in the future. Right now, however, they are not my favorite Project photos.
I suspect it's because I would have taken most of them anyway. Without a Project 365, I would have fewer photos of my kids, but I'd still have plenty.
I also think it's because--at least right now--my best photos are not in the storytelling style that I prefer, and it has everything to do with the way I took them.
My favorite photographers are street photographers and the FSA photographers of the 1930s, like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, who tell a story through a portrait of a person in his environment. Yet my best Project 365 photos, and those I've most enjoyed taking, have no people in them at all.
I've most enjoyed my nature and architecture images. When I took them, I was alone. I had time to observe the light, to think about the image I wanted to create, and to decide how to do it. I took my time, and the results show it.
As the first quarter of my Project 365 comes to a close, I have two new goals. First, I want to find more solitary moments to concentrate on what I see through my viewfinder. Second, I want to apply my best photography skills to storytelling images.
I want to bring my "A" game to my most meaningful photos--those of my family. Rather than grab a quick snapshot and hope for the best, I plan to take my time, creating the best possible shot with intention. To do that, I need to slow down and continue to improve my camera fundamentals and composition. As those become more automatic, great results should happen more intuitively.
For that, I need practice. Luckily, I've committed to doing that every day for the next 275 days.
And I will not quit.