Many aspiring photographers have done, or are contemplated doing, a 360 photo journey project which is about taking a photograph every day for a year. Sometimes this type of project may include self-imposed restrictions like shooting only self-portraits or perhaps the same object, like a tree, throughout the seasons. I can think of a number of reasons why people might embark on such projects including; forced creativity, documenting life, leaving a legacy, aiding memory and documenting growth and improvements as an artist. All of these are worthwhile pursuits and I recognize some validity in each of them as end goals. For me however, the reason for doing a project like this is quite different. As a child I grew up in a home with a mother who was a music teacher and a father who was a composer and with no less than two grand pianos. What this meant was that from a very early age I was put in front of the piano and required to practice regularly. Fast forward to 2012 when I took a workshop with Jay Maisel in New York where all members in the workshop were asked how often we went out to shoot. The surprising answer to me was that the people who went out least regularly were also the ones that turned in the least successful work. It was then it dawned on me that practicing photography may be very similar to practicing the piano - the more you practice the better you get. In hindsight that is perhaps not surprising as there are a number of technical aspects one should master. However, I think there is a much more important skill to learn which can only be honed with practice and that is the skill of bringing together the vision one has of a final image with how the image actually comes out. Being able to produce photographs that are close to how we envision them in our minds eye is to me the primary reason for pursuing photography as an art – this is what elevates a photograph from a snapshot to an image worth looking at.
Not unlike the Études of Chopin, which were meant as skill building exercises but succeeded in being so much more, my goal would be to produce a daily image that goes beyond being a mere trivial exercise or snapshot by attempting to produce the image I am envisioning in my mind. This, of course, then brings up the question of how long one should do this. Again, and I am afraid of what this means from a practical point of view, I refer to a musician who never stops practicing because as soon as they do their skills start to deteriorate. So, if I go down this path of taking a daily photograph to hone my skills I feel I am really making a commitment for the rest of my life, or at least for as long as I continue to photograph.
Clearly a few ground rules must be laid down to make this useful and for me to stay sane:
First, I may not be able to post an image every day. For example if I am travelling, wilderness camping for a week or shooting film then I clearly cannot post the work the same day. However, I will commit to taking the photograph every day and post it as soon as I can. When shooting both film and digital it means there are going to be holes in the daily series while I wait for development and scanning of film I may shoot for this project.
Second, because I am trying to hone my skills I will endeavor to minimize post processing and post the work straight out of the camera as much as possible. Remember the goal is to hone the skill of bringing the vision in my mind together with my technical skill so post processing is really a form of cheating as it artificially brings the physical image closer to my vision.
Third, I will not post any existing work, or shoot in advance, to try and make up for not taking the daily photograph. This would only serve to make people think I did the work and ultimately just cheat myself.
Other than that there are no rules so it is time to practice my craft so art may follow.