Once upon a time, I saw a photo by a man named Stephen Poff who was attempting to take a self-portrait every day for an entire year. It inspired me to do the same. Mostly, I just loved the challenge of it. Stephen had admitted that he’d even missed a few days and I wanted to see if I could do it, non-stop, rain or shine, sick or well, I wanted to see if I could pull it off. To keep me honest, I created a little group on a website called Flickr to publish my photos to. I figured that if maybe a dozen or so people were watching that I’d feel bad if I skipped a day and that would get me through the whole year.
I maybe underestimated the nature of vanity in the human spirit just a tad.
I began my first project a little over five years ago with a simple photo in the shadows of the balcony of the hotel I happened to be staying in that night. I continued the project for not only a year, but four. Four straight years without missing a single shot. Taking a photo and writing a diary entry every single day. I even wrote a book about it. Eventually, I just kind of got tired of it. I was burned out. I didn’t want to see myself anymore. I had nothing more to say about myself. I needed a break. So after four years, and 1461 straight photos, I simply stopped. I didn’t announce it. I didn’t tell anyone. I just stopped and faded into the background.
The 365 Days project is honestly one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. Through that flickr group, one I initially would have been thrilled if 50 people followed, I inspired over 21,000 all over the world to to try the same journey. Suddenly I had my own little cult. I had a podcast (with Stephen), I’d written a book, I’d been interviewed by newspapers and radio shows. I never really regretted walking away from it. I figured the testament just stood for itself. But I did miss it on occasion. I still do. I miss sharing my art, my thoughts, my words and my life. And most of all, I miss sharing in the lives of others. Every single day of the project, I got to read about someone who says that the project changed their lives. That they grew as a person. That they learned something about themselves. I’ve always been very proud of that. I’ve thought about coming back from time to time, but never pulled the trigger.
I often said, back in the early days, that a photographer named Sarah Bloom is 365’s proudest success story. Sarah was a shy woman with very little photographic experience who became attracted to the project in the first year. Watching her first year was amazing. From photo to photo, you could literally see her grow as an artist, from simple snapshots to some of the most innovative work I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’m out of line by saying Sarah would be the first person to tell you that 365 Days changed her life. She eventually walked away from the project after a few years as well. But by the time she had, she’d become one of my all time favorite photographers; a respected published artist, with gallery shows full of truly provocative work. She also became a friend.
I had been considering coming back this year, and then I saw a tweet from Sarah saying she was trying the project once again as well. Much like Stephen inspired me to take a shot the first time, Sarah made me want to try it this time. I walked into my studio, set up a light and my tripod and went to work.
Maybe I’m back. Maybe I’m not. I simply don’t know if I have another year of this stuff left in me. But I know I have at least one day in me. And we’ll see if I have a day in me tomorrow. I already know I’m capable of doing the project. This time it isn’t about proving that to myself. It’s also not about proving it to anyone else. I’ve done that before too. In fact, the main reason I stuck around for four years last time around was that I didn’t want to let people down. I felt like I had to be the leader of the group. I felt like I had to be there. Maybe that’s why I left. Maybe I just didn’t want the responsibility anymore. I dunno. I didn’t really intend this particular entry to be this deep.
Or maybe I did. See, there’s a lot of things I’ve been wanting to change about my life lately. So this is my journey of self discovery. This is my chance to jump in and do it the way everyone else does. Take a photo. List my thoughts. Learn about myself. Let see where it takes me. Maybe I make 365 days. Maybe I don’t. The open ended journey is the whole point of it, right?
Of course, the world is likely to end this year, so i won’t make the whole thing anyway, but that’s beyond my control. . . . . . . . And somehow… I don’t mind.