Experiment: Failed

Note: This is a cross post from my 365 Days project.

I think it may be time to admit defeat.

That was five days in a row where I didn’t get a picture. On Tuesday it was work. I have a part time job now where I spend two days at the company offices taking photos and half a day at home editing. On Tuesday I suggested to only shoot when I’m there and do all editing at home, which meant taking home the pictures from Tuesday and editing them that evening. By the time I was done, it was 9 p.m., and I really didn’t feel like putting any energy into this project. That one day was the beginning of the end, as I knew from the start it would be. On Wednesday night I was too tired and went to bed early. On Thursday, after I was done with my editing for the job, I decided to take the afternoon off from pretty much everything — work, photography, exercising, dieting. I felt like I really needed that; I had been constantly on the move for weeks. And I was glad I did; I don’t even regret the Pizza I had. (I made up for that and not taking a walk on Friday, which made it ok.) Again, though, no picture. Also on Thursday, I got an e-mail from a concerned friend who had been looking at this website every day since I showed it to her. At that point I realized that I’m probably not gonna make it.

The truth is, I had been struggling with this project for a little while before I actually stopped. I came across this article on diyphotography.net a few days before, and it had the ring of familiarity for me, even though at that point I was still shooting.

The simple truth is that we’re photographers. Artists. Sure, we can take snapshots, but we’d rather “create images.” If we’re not going to put in the effort, why bother? And effort, my friends, takes time. Planning it. Shooting it. Processing it. Posting it. At its most basic, those four steps actually take up a considerable amount of time. And time means pressure.

For me, that’s the key in this article. It is hard to force creativity, and I realize that by setting a topic, I created a much bigger amount of pressure. It’s not that I don’t like to take pictures every day, it’s trying to force myself into the constraints of a certain topic. I already mentioned it on Monday, when I took the (from my point of view) uninspired image of the light bulb. On that day I had been on a really long walk on the Thüster Berg, and I had dared to undertake an experiment of another kind: I took only the 50 mm lens; for the first time in my photographer’s life I went for a walk without taking a zoom lens. The results were exhilarating. While I realized that there’s still lots to learn about this subject (and did learn a few lessons on that day), and those pictures are still a long way from the works of other (more famous) forest photographers, they were still the best forest pictures I ever took. And then I was supposed to stop working on them just for some stupid project that I had already lost the enthusiasm for?

The thing is, I’m very reluctant to pick up my camera for the sole purpose of keeping to a schedule. I don’t want to publish pictures with my name on them if I don’t fully stand behind them. What’s the point otherwise? As Jeff Guyer, the author of the DIY Photography article, said it: If we call ourselves photographers, why should we be content with a snapshot, just so that we can say, “yes, I, too, completed a 365 project”?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I tried this. I did end up with some pictures that I really like, and I started a nice little collection, to which I might add some more later, when I see something inspiring and without the pressure of a project.
For now, though, I declare this experiment ended with failure. Ultimately, this decision will mean more and better pictures in the future, because it frees both my time and my mind.

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