Project 365

January is a time of reflection. In the days leading up to the New Year, I hear the sounds of creativity bubbling from those around me as they dip their toes (maybe for the first time or maybe again after time away) into the deep waters of a yearlong photographic project.

Welcome to Project 365.

A yearlong project! There’s power in this, strength in beginning a new project and trust in moving forward into something slightly unknown. Will I finish? Will it fade? Will I find daily inspiration? Will I like what I see? These are the thoughts that swirl as you begin day 1/365.

I had all these same thoughts. So, I asked myself why I was doing it. I had never succeeded at such a big project before. In fact, I had fallen off the wagon of a simple 30-day project a year earlier. I thought long and hard about my intentions. What parts of my life did I want to see through the lens of this project? What was my focus?

What I instinctively knew was this: I craved mindfulness. I sought it out with my camera lens. This quickly became Project Life. My 365 Project kept me grounded on bad days and gave me wings on good days. Photography is all about the moment. Staying in the moment has a way of dissipating negativities even though we catch them in freeze-frame with our cameras. When you sit with sadness or anger, you’re in control of ushering it out of your mind.

Focusing on the moment has a reciprocal way of magnifying positivity, as well. When you sit with joy and love, you’re empowered and radiate it back to yourself and others. Photography holds this magic. No one else has your eyes. No one sees the world exactly as you do.

Many photographers begin their 365 Project on New Year’s Day. I hope this might be the year for you. You’ll find yourself in good company! This project becomes what you make it. It’s a practice in cultivating a strong work ethic (and a reverse process to learn your passion). 365 Projects tend to help photographers maintain focus and find beauty in the everyday.

I began this project on the cusp of life’s transition. I chose to document every day, and it carried me through the year I became self-employed, moved, nurtured a terminally-ill mother, finalized my divorce and watched my son enter kindergarten. Today, I think back over my 365 Project and find moments where I felt truly alive. I use that as my guide for the new adventures I’ll begin in this New Year. I also look back and find moments of difficulty, where I pushed through it anyway. I know I’ll carry that perseverance with me always.

There was a particular moment in the middle of Penn Station—after airports and planes, taxis and luggage, subways and trains—when the cluster overwhelmed me. There were too many directions, all of them unknown, yet vaguely familiar. I spun for a minute, balancing my tears on the edge of a subway platform. I don’t want to forget that. That sheer second right before I found strength, I walked directly into the center of the overwhelm and came out the other side stronger from the experience.

The only way around it is through it.

When approaching this project, I asked myself about my intention. What is real, truthful or honest from today that makes it different from yesterday and tomorrow? What I learned from shooting every day is that even on bad days, even when the cat coughs up hairballs and the fridge is empty and I’ve run out of gas—each and every day there’s at least one thing to treasure. It’s all perspective! Some days are snow cones and sun flare. Some days I document the gray hair and broken transmission. This 365 Project isn’t viewed through a pair of rose-colored glasses. This is life for real, and it’s beautiful in all its honesty.

I love my 365 Project. It keeps me afloat, makes me accountable for showing up and doing something creative each and every day. I see it as a beautiful way to find gratitude in our daily lives. There’s importance in seeing what we do with each day we’re given, even if it feels mundane. Through this project I’ve found that sometimes the most ordinary things can be extraordinary, like the simple act of driving home as the darkness falls and life settles into night.

This photographic project is different from any other. This is diving deep and staring life right in the face. I feel like I’m an active participant once again in my life. Now, I seek out beauty to remember. And not just to document it, but to live it. These are the moments to cherish. Real life.

Will this be the year for you to do the same? It’s a photo-a-day project—a guaranteed way of improving your photography. You’ll discover photographers on the same path as you. And, as you start to see with new perspectives, you’ll find your photographic eye, build your portfolio and walk away from the experience with something beautiful and worthwhile.

Tips For Staying On Task With Your 365 Project:

1 | Bring your camera with you everywhere, always.
2 | Check your battery level each night. Charge it overnight so you’re ready to start shooting first thing in the morning.
3 | Keep a notebook handy with thoughts or ideas that come to mind. Take note of locations you want to revisit later.
4 | Take at least one shot in the morning. This might be all you get to before the day ends! The morning shot is what kept me true to my project.
5 | Take photo walks with friends or by yourself. A lunch break from work is best when a camera is in your hand.
6 | Surround yourself with supportive friends. Join other photographers on their 365 Project journey; Shutter Sisters 365 and Project 365 are both active Flickr groups. Online communities can offer challenges to keep your creativity flowing for 365 days.
7 | Don’t be afraid to shoot the same subject again and again.
8 | Invest in a camera bag you want to have with you each day. My Epiphanie camera bag doubles as my purse, so that my camera is readily available wherever I am.
9 | Trust that your creativity will ebb and flow. Watch the patterns in your photography. Some weeks will produce less-than-quality results and other weeks will be the source of multiple "best of" shots!
10 | Never say never. It’s always possible to create an image out of nothing at all, even at midnight.
11 | Take this opportunity to really learn and understand your camera settings, and try new techniques.
12 | Be prepared to go through a variety of emotions pertaining to this project and your photography—including excitement and disdain! A 365 Project is a great commitment. It will push your creativity to new levels, and you’ll come out a better photographer for it.
Photographer and writer Meredith Winn is a contributing editor to SHUTTER SISTERS. She also can be found writing on her blog, the-spirit-of-the-river, at www.meredithwinn.wordpress.com.

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