Twitter led me to discover a photography project that says as much about friendship as it does about the man who took the polaroids. Jamie Livingston took a photo a day every day for the last 18 years of his life. He lived in New York, and the collection charts lots of everyday things: his friends, the changing city, what he ate and what he did, every day until he was diagnosed with and eventually died from cancer.
After he died, his friends decided that this huge body of work should not just be discarded, so they re-photographed every one of the 6,607 photos, created a website and put on an exhibition. The site was stumbled across by a journalist and his research and subsequent blog about what he found out led to the site – which had initially collapsed after many thousands of visitors arrived (one blog claimed ” at times it is receiving something like 150 hits per second”) being moved to much more stable servers. I recommend the more detailed blog about the project, which is fascinating reading.
I had to think a little bit about why this is so stirring. This is not a technical achievement, nor an endeavor that requires an inaccessible skill set. This is one thing, done once a day. Something so spare and ordinary, just taken to extraordinary lengths. A simple thing: whatever struck his fancy on a given day – just capture one thing on film. Simple.
I know a lot of people try to do this on Flickr, but this is strikingly different in many respects. This isn’t a collection of forced poses or composed shots or juxtapositions, he isn’t looking for something funny, weird, or ironic. I find myself thinking I should try this, but give up within days because I’d try to wait until something interesting happened. That’s me not appreciating the ordinary, or trying to force it, and not having the discipline to just do something on principle. These photos are as simple as memories. They don’t always make sense, they don’t always fit into some grand theme or design. Here is a memory. Here is another. All you need to know is: this was then, on this date. This happened, I was there. Do you remember?
Other photo related things that have cropped up recently:
- The UN launched a photo competition – called Picture This, they were looking for photos depicting people taking action to achieve any of the 8 Millennium Development Goals. Winners will be announced in September
- The Living Proof project – more than just photographs, but they are worth browsing
- A project to showcase photos that flickr considers “most interesting“
- And finally, the good news that the National Trust now allows photography inside many of its properties – proof below!
UPDATE: A friend pointed out 2 other interesting photo a day projects: A photo a day – check out the website to find out about it and a variation on the 365 flickr project : 1984 Aleks’ project to re-tell the first 369 words of George Orwell’s novel one day at a time, one word at a time, in photos.