On March 25th, 2013 I stayed home sick from school. I spent most of the day in bed, not really doing much of anything and just feeling lousy. Eventually, I heard the excited shouts of my little sisters returning home. I sat up with my ratty pink blanket wrapped around my shoulders and watched through the window as they ran up the driveway.
Seeing them come home made me realize that it was 3:00, and I had spent the entire day in bed. To make myself feel better about having accomplished absolutely nothing, I set up my tripod and took a simple self portrait – with the blanket still draped around me.
After editing the photo and posting it on Facebook, I realized how much better I felt. There is something about documenting my day that makes me feel more fulfilled – even on the most ordinary of days. In a split second, I decided to turn this simple selfie into an ongoing project.
I was wary to call it a 365 – I was afraid that if I committed to an entire year and was unable to complete it that I would have failed. I reinforced my belief in this decision fifty-three days later, when I ran into a rut and decided I didn’t want to take photos anymore. The fifty-third day of the project was very similar to the first one – it was a simple photo of my exhausted eyes looking emotionlessly into the lens.
Some time later, my strength began to return. I suddenly felt inspired again. I got out of bed one night and lay down in the middle of my street with my hand outstretched to the sky – I called this photo day fifty-four.
I wish I could say that after my extended break I reinforced the commitment I had made and pushed myself to create each day – but that is not what happened. I struggled. I hated the project, then I loved it, then I was at my wits end – pulling my hair out and screaming in frustration from the stress of trying to create something new every single day. My “365 day project” lasted for 650 days. One year, nine months, and ten days. 15600 hours.
There were days when I took a photo that I absolutely hated and I posted it anyway. There were (many) days when I spent endless hours creating an incredible photo and didn’t write an essay that a teacher thought should be written. There were days when my photo adventures ended with me in the hospital. And I wouldn’t undo any of it.
At the beginning of the project I was a little lost girl, quiet and mousy and afraid of myself and everyone else. Forcing myself to work in front of and behind the camera each day made me more comfortable with myself – not just my physical appearance but also my personality. I have learned to accept and embrace my flaws. This self-confidence has crossed over into all the areas of my life – I am more productive and motivated, I am more outgoing and I don’t let people walk all over me.
I have learned how to shoot in raw, create double exposures, utilize backlighting, improve my composites, pose myself, use Aperture, envision my final product, retouch skin, use Flickr, manipulate tones and colours, express myself visually and in writing, channel my energy into productive work, and love myself – among a million other things.
On the last day of my project, I was ready for it to end. I had been dragging out the last photo for weeks. First I was sick, then I was just too anxious. I had no idea what to do when the project ended. I was afraid that without something to work on I would forget all that I had learned and end up back in the same dark place I had come from. I debated jumping into another 365 project right away.
Eventually, I forced myself to step back and make a plan. I will always be a self-portrait artist. I will always love using my art as a way to express myself. Instead of forcing myself to take a sub-par photo each day, I can now take more time to create more meaningful artwork. I joined a weekly self-portrait project called Let’s Get Creative, so that I knew I would be forced to create often enough – even when I feel uninspired.
The 365 project is the best thing I have ever done for my photography, and also for myself. I recommend it to everyone. With that said – here are some of my favourite images from the project. Some of them I now dislike, but at the time they were created it was the best that I could do. None of these images would exist if it weren’t for that terribly uneventful day and my impulsive commitment to the craziest thing I have ever done.
Thank you for journeying through this part of my life with me – I feel at peace now with the fact that this chapter is closed. I am ready to continue on.