Last year I embarked on a journey to document our daily lives in a way that I had never done before. I made the decision to take one photo a day for the year. My goal was to show truth; to show our mess, our chaos, our adventures, and our love.
I was nervous and wondered if I would complete it...would I give up? We had a new baby- would life be too overwhelming to keep up with it everyday? Well, I can answer whole heartedly that YES- YES IT CAN BE OVERWHELMING. And I failed. About 20 times I failed.
The picture above is one of my very favorite images. I can remember the snow falling- everything was covered. The whole town was shut down. Our neighborhood was blanketed in fluffy, perfect snow. The sun was shining and reflecting off of the snow absolutely blinding me. After breakfast, it was like someone sounded the alarm. Every kid in the neighborhood came running outside to play. We went to a neighbors house for chili and hot chocolate, we built a sledding hill off of our porch, made a snowman, and the kids played until they were soaked and frozen solid. He wanted to go back out and play, but everything was drying, so he crawled up in his window just to look at the winter wonderland outside.
Of course on day 4 of being snowed in, we all met again at another neighbor's house for a "Snowed In" Party where we all just brought whatever dish we could make out of the ingredients we had on hand. Too much snow for any businesses to open up and certainly too much to drive in!
I know, I know, us Southerner's absolutely lose our minds over snow!
I can remember one night, a pipe burst in our bathroom. Water was spewing out everywhere and it was chaos. I screamed for my husband and he quickly ran to turn the water off outside- meanwhile I'm making feeble attempts to stick my finger through the hole to try to stop the geyser erupting from it. The kids are screaming, the baby is crying, and of course the next morning we were supposed to take the children on an adventure to Busch Gardens. I'm seeing visions of thousands of dollars in repairs and literally imagining the worst case scenario. After things calmed down slightly, shop vac humming, I grabbed my camera and took a picture of the aftermath. It was almost hilarious at that point.
And if you're wondering, it was a fairly simple fix and we got it all cleaned up and in time to take the kids on their adventure. We did make an unexpected pit stop for a gallon of coffee though.
I have never seen a real sunflower field in person. I have seen patches of them grown, but nothing that even compares to this. Nothing. I remember coming around the bend in the road and tears pricked at my eyes. The most gorgeous sunflowers you've ever seen. As far as the eye could see. It was breathtaking. I can only imagine what the children thought when they saw it. I know what they said, but I bet inside they felt like it was magical. We had so much fun exploring the fields. They are so tall I felt like Alice in Wonderland! It was worth getting up at dark thirty for.
The field was planted by a man in memory of his mother. What a heartfelt tribute. I am so grateful for his work and dedication planting the field and I sure hope he does it again this year.
There's a quote by Dorthea Lange that says, "Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still" and that has always stuck with me. I know exactly what she means. You look at those pictures and they make you FEEL something. Each picture here I can recall where we were, who we are with, when it was, and what we were feeling. It brings back sights and smells...emotions. And that is magic. I am so glad I went through with this and I'm so glad that I now have these images to look back on and pass down to my children.
I still don't even know if these are my favorites. Some of the images I shot for this project are simply too personal for me to share with the world. And that's okay too. They are going into our family photo album for the year 2018 and that's what matters.
We had a lot of ups and downs this year, the good certainly outweighed the bad. One thing I still struggle with is the decision to put our 16/17 year old Pekingese down. He was a rescue and had been with me for 10 years- my sweet little buddy. He just came along for the ride where ever I took him! I certainly wish I would have snapped one last picture of him, but he was sick, he was in pain, and I wanted him at peace. I will always remember how he used to smile at me! I am forever grateful we found each other. He was just what I needed.
Since this project has come to a conclusion, I'm still sorting through and finding hidden gems along my journey that I missed. Or something that didn't stand out as "extraordinary" now seems perfect. I think maybe waiting to cull through and edit the pictures gives me a chance to marinate on them, or at least tell 2 different sides to the story. Editing the picture I loved the day I took it tells how I'm feeling about it that day, but going through 4 months later and looking at them shows how I feel looking back on the situation.
In the beginning it wasn't hard to remember to take a photo a day. I would say about 3 months in it got a little difficult. But when I realized I had forgotten, I quickly learned that I didn't ruin the whole freaking thing. A fellow photographer reminded me that this is MY project and I ALONE make the rules. That was the key to success. Giving myself grace for days that I had forgotten and having courage to go on shooting - not giving up or letting it go.
So what's next for me? The children have already asked if we are doing it this year. I think the commitment to another project is right around the corner. I haven't decided if it's going to be a photo a week, a photo a day, or something in between...but I'm sure it will be something.
If you'd like some help, feedback, or inspiration for your own 365 project, reach out to me. I'd love to chat with you and try to help you fill in some blanks. What are your goals for 2019?
On January 5, 2018 I began my 365 Project. I have done others before, but they weren't true 365 projects- where I've committed to take a photo every single day for a year. Sometimes I would take one a week, sometimes a few a week, I know during a particularly hard month, only 1-3 pictures made it into the project for the month (client work isn't counted in this). This year, I've stuck to it. One photo for the project every day. And I'm halfway there.
I thought I would post a few of my favorites thus far and take a look back on the past 6 months of our journey- and talk about why they made it into the project, why I love them, and what they mean to me.
Are you part of The Brave Storyteller group on Facebook? Have you been doing a 365 project? I'd love to hear about it if you have been! Feel free to post pictures, share your stories, and share with us.
The photo above is from a freak snow we got in March. The kids obviously were delighted, but our boxer pictured in mid bounce steals the show in this shot. He loves snow, he loves children, and he loves to play. It was a perfect day for him!
This one just makes my heart melt. I love the way the light highlights his beautiful features. He's sleeping so peacefully and I just absolutely love a good profile shot.
On day 41, we went to a petting zoo and had all kinds of fun. I love this shot because it takes me back to that one warm day we had in February. Just when you've had so much of winter you think you can't stand it anymore, God blesses us with a slightly warmer day that makes us want to get outside, stretch our legs, and eases off the cabin fever a bit. Goats, peacocks, beautiful soft lighting, and the girl. Does it get any better? Nope.
We had an enormous tree fall in our yard. We spent 2 weeks almost on cleanup duty to get our yard back in ship-shape. We have such amazing dreams for our yard, but we've got to take it one day at a time. On the plus side, we will have firewood for years. Ha!
These are just a few of the images that I have captured thus far. I can't wait to see where this project takes us and I am so excited to assemble them into our family yearbook at the end of the year. So far, this project has taught me so much about taking the time to focus on our family. Be present in everyday. Love every day. Cherish every minute, even the hard ones. Even the hard ones are a blessing.
To schedule your own storytelling session with me, use the contact tab above. Let's chat. I can promise you will never regret documenting those truly meaningful moments in life. Also, moms- this one is for you- a friendly reminder to GET IN THE PICTURE. Your kids don't care what you look like or that you think you need to lose 10 lbs or that your hair is in a messy bun. They want to just see you in the picture. They love you. They want to play with you. Do this for THEM.
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.