It was about a year ago that D’Arcy Norman suggested that, if folks wanted to, we might challenge ourselves to shoot a photo a day for the year 2008 and share as many of them as possible. I didn’t do so hot about the sharing part, but I’ve managed to work the question “What’s today’s picture?”
into my daily thinking. My family, when we’re out and about, makes suggestions about what the day’s picture should be, and we’re building together a wonderful family archive of the photos I’ve taken and the memories that they carry. This is, perhaps, my most thoughtfully documented year. But that’s not even the good bit.
What D’Arcy’s invitation, and the group’s examples and conversations, did for me was to literally fiddle with the way that I see the world. He calls it “mindful seeing,” and explains in a post he wrote last January:
Mindful seeing is the process of turning off the filters, of seeing your surroundings unfettered and unobstructed.
When viewing the world without filtering, even the most boring and banal subjects can become wondrous and interesting. We are constantly surrounded by interesting things that we normally don’t see – textures, lighting, patterns, shapes, objects, groupings, even messages.
Photographers are often described as distancing themselves from their surroundings by “hiding behind a camera” or “viewing the world only through a viewfinder.” I see photography from the exact opposite side of the coin. By mindfully seeing the world around me, I feel as though I am seeing much more than I would otherwise. I see patterns, convergence, divergence, shadows, lighting, juxtaposition, and composition that are likely missed by others. That’s not to say that I am “better” than any other – just that by being mindful of what I am seeing, I am aware of what is around me. And when I am aware, I am better able to take an interesting photograph.
I am paying better attention now that I’m thinking about what to capture, and what will look good, and what’s worth remembering and the like. And as I begin my second year of trying to take a picture everyday, I’m not worried about whether or not I’ll keep up with shooting (yep) and posting (not so much), but it’s becoming a part of my day, a piece of who I am and what I do. That’s a big deal.
D’Arcy, I’m grateful for your example.
If you’re interested, the group’s still there, and getting started with 2009. There are also lots of other groups doing the same or similar projects. Find one you like and join and start shooting pictures. You don’t need fancy equipment – I alternate between a DSLR and my cell phone – you just need to be willing to look around and really try to see it.
You’re welcome to take a peek at the pictures that I do share online. Probably the best way is to just take a peek at my photostream. I’m less interested in the presentation than I am in the capturing and saving and seeing – but one thing I’ll be working on this time around is the workflow that I use to upload, tag and organize my photos – that could use a little bit of tweaking.