25 February 2012

365 Projects - why, oh why?

Sometimes, even when you are well into a 365 project, you just have to stop and ask yourself why? Why did I decide to do this crazy thing? Why should I carry on? This moment can come at any time and for a variety of reasons. During my first 365 (the blue plush scientist), I never lost sight of why I was doing it, even on those days when I'd wander round my house aimlessly with him, trying to find any old thing to put in a photo. I was doing it because I wanted to complete my first long project, I loved playing with toys (yes, I know!), and it was going to be fun having a whole year of amusing photos to look back on. I wasn't doing it to improve my photography skills or to learn something about myself. It was just a fun idea.

Right now I'm on day 332 of my phone project - the end is in sight, and that is just as well because I'm truly quite bored with it. It's such a struggle trying to think of a new subject every day, even though artistic merit isn't that important. But then I ask myself why, and remind myself that this project was merely a way of documenting the mundane, everyday things of life. Yes I wanted to make those things seem vaguely interesting by using effects and composition, but it wasn't meant to be a life changing art project. It really helps to remind myself of this; every day until the end if I have to. I won't quit on it now!

You don't get more mundane than this!
As for my 365 self portrait project, it is still enjoyable most of the time. Some days I come up with really involved ideas, full of props, themes and different locations, and others I take a quick snapshot with my phone. The last few days I have had to ask myself that question though, just what do I think I'm getting out of the project?

Improving my photography skills - it's true that forcing myself to take a photo every day means that I can't let photography disappear the way some other hobbies have, and that the more I use my camera the better I will become. But, I haven't been trying that many new things really, and those days when it's a quick snapshot aren't teaching me anything at all. Overall I guess it has helped, mainly because I need the discipline of an every day project. 

Planned photo v quick snapshot

Feeling more confident about myself - this is the biggie for me. I've always hated photos of me. From the age of 10 onwards there had been only 1 photo that was bearable to look at. This project is helping so much. I'm now really used to seeing my own image, and am looking at it from an artistic point of view rather than searching out all the things I hate! I'm just modelling for myself. If I had a willing model to cart around with me at all times and pose as I wanted, that would be amazing, but I don't. I only have myself, and I'm very good at taking my own directions! I still hate other people taking photos of me, but that can be worked on some other time. It's helped me accept myself as I am a bit more I guess.

A photo of me actually smiling that I can bear to look at!

What can I try to focus on and improve for the rest of the project?

Try more new techniques/styles - I need to force myself to try out more ideas and not just rely on quick snapshots and tested favourite poses. I have lots of photography books, and a little time making some lists would be really inspiring.

Work a bit harder at using the manual settings on the camera - and not have to rely so much on post processing. I have been doing this to some extent (I'm getting the hang of aperture at last), but I rely too much on the P setting. I always alter white balance and ISO, but often I'll still need to alter the exposure afterwards.

Plan ahead sometimes - it can really help to choose a theme and come up with a number of ideas to use in the week ahead. It takes the pressure off having to come up with a fresh idea every day. My Halloween shots are a good example, and they were worked out weeks in advance because I was so excited about the scary props, especially the fake blood!

I'm definitely no expert, but my one piece of advice to anyone struggling with a 365 is to just stop and take stock - remember your reasons for starting it, think of ways to make it more fun again, and if all else fails just start by trying to take at least one photo a week that you spend more time on and can be really proud of. The encouragement and satisfaction you'll get from yourself is always a great motivator! Either that or buy yourself a bottle of fake blood and go wild!

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