I have failed to complete a 365 project on at least four separate occasions. Honestly, the number is probably a little higher than that but we’re not going to count the times I only made it to day two. I think my problem was always that I put too much pressure on myself to take an amazing photograph every day. When the night was over and midnight rolled around and all I had was a crummy, badly lit, awkwardly posed, meaningless piece of drivel…I would lose all my motivation to continue. How could I possibly be expected to share my bad photos, let people see them, let people know that I took something so imperfect? What would people think? How on earth could this mediocre thing further my success? So I would quit, I would refuse to settle for bad photos and would quit the project all together while cursing myself for not being a more talented, successful and creative photographer.
Eventually, for a little while, I forced myself to believe I was just not cut out for the 365 life. I just couldn’t do it. After that I even convinced myself I wasn’t cut out for the photography life at all, even though its been my passion since I was 13 years old. For a while I stopped shooting seriously, I gave up any hope of success and the little following I had built to withdraw into an unhappy home life, thinking that if I spent more time focusing my attention elsewhere I’d find happiness in a place I didn’t belong.
Well at the beginning of this year I left my old life behind and started all over. Nothing about this was easy and for many months I’ve felt completely, one hundred percent lost. I wandered around like a ghost wondering who I was and where I was supposed to be.
Finally one day, after browsing through my old photos and editing the few current ones I had from adventures, I realized how much I missed creative photography. For a few days thereafter I put all the same old pressure on myself. Shoot something great or get the flip out. Shoot something perfect and meaningful or don’t shoot at all.
I ended up not shooting at all. I haven’t done proper self portraits in at least a year, probably longer. I haven’t shot consistently for at least a year, and I knew I didn’t have it in me to create something up to my old standards anymore.
But the fact was my heart was aching for my camera, aching for a little freedom to express and create. It took me a few days longer to realize what I really wanted from photography again. Fun. I missed the absolute fun of it. The “this photo is meaningless” fun, the “I tried and this is the best I could do,” fun and the time spent thinking up pointless ideas only to have them fail later. I missed enjoying the time spent with my camera. I missed enjoying the art of shooting without regard for good or bad, success or failure. I missed not seeking validation for my photographs. I missed not being in competition.
That is why this new project has been all about validating myself, competing with no one, and embracing the failures. It has been about carving a tiny bit of me time into my hectic schedule. It has been about keeping busy while my imperfect life sorts itself out. It has been about learning to let go of needing perfection and accepting the flaws in myself and my work.
As of August 25, 2015 I officially started a new 365 project. Today is day 42. Of course all of my photos from the past week are backlogged on my camera, unedited and unshared but the simple fact is…they exist. I’ve done it. I’m doing it and this time I intend to complete it.
I will admit there have been days when I shoot nothing and make it up the next day, there have been days when I beat myself up for not shooting something better, there have been days when I feel ugly and unworthy of being in front of the camera, and there have been days when I want nothing more than to quit….but I haven’t quit. I wont quit.
This year has been one of the rockiest and most unstable I can ever remember. I’ve cried more than I ever want to cry again. I’ve hurt more than I ever have before. I’ve lost all faith in myself too many times to count. But the moment I started this project I found within myself a tiny piece of the girl I used to be…and the girl was always supposed to be. Thanks to this project I have a renewed confidence, however small, simply because I am doing what I love again. Through my self portraits I am allowing myself to define who I am, rather than letting the world define me. I am declaring my survival through the hard times and my gratitude through the good. I am making a promise to myself that by the end of these 365 days I will be better in more ways than one.
In the end I hope to once again find my love affair with photography, I hope to be skilled behind my camera, practiced at executing creative ideas, master of time management, and most of all I want to be a stronger, more independent and more confident version of myself.
I won’t be a 365 failure forever.