Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Birthday Project!

It's been a busy holiday season, giving me little time to post...but things are calming down and the new year has begun, so I'm back.

Tomorrow is my birthday -- I'll be 49. 49! Most people who know me tell me that I don't look 49, but they usually don't see me rolling out of bed before I've had my what do they know? Hey, compare for yourself from the image above. That's Michelle Pfeiffer at 49 (not at all a fair comparison, I'm sure she'll be hot when she's 80), Donny Osmond at 49 (ok, he has more hair than I do -- but is it real?!), and me at 49. I think I've held up well...
I decided to celebrate my 49th birthday -- the last year of life according to some folks -- but doing a little photographic project. Tomorrow I'm going to shoot 49 images of whatever life throws at me, no studio stuff or set-up shots, just life. I'll post them on the web and put up a link here. Sort of a day in the life.

Projects such as this are one way I try to keep the creative juices flowing, and I find that they really help me keep up enthusiasm for photography even when it's a business. A few years ago I found myself in a bit of a funk, not knowing what to shoot or even whether I wanted to shoot anything or not. I consciously missed the excitement I had felt, the renewal and giddy exhiliration, when I got my first DSLR and began to explore the possibilities of high-quality digital photography. I hauled that Canon 300D (Digital Rebel) with me everywhere I went, and took pictures every chance I got. I didn't want my photography to become a "job" that I only did to make money, I wanted that thrill and excitement back!

As my son was getting interested in photography about that same time, I decided we'd do a weekly project -- every Sunday night, we'd flip through the pages of the dictionary randomly, and with our eyes closed point to a word. Our project for the week then was to take a photo that showed what that word meant to us. Some were obvious and easy ("fear," "boring"), but some words were outrageously difficult (try making a photo for "beluga" or "digest" !!). But that was the whole point, to make us think, to get the creative juices flowing, and to expand our ability to tell stories with pictures. It's worked very well, and we still do our weekly project, with my wife and daughter as the judges of who did the best job that week!

Even though this is my full-time business now, it's good to have tangible reminders of why I wanted to do this in the first place -- because I love taking pictures and telling stories with them. Sometimes the "story" being told is a frozen moment in time of a person or family -- thinking of it that way, though, instead of just as a "portrait" helps give it more meaning, and honestly pushes me to do more than a quick light set-up and click the shutter...if I remember that I'm recording a memory for these folks that they and their children and grandchildren will cherish for a lifetime, it's more enjoyable. And it focuses my thinking.

I truly love photography. Like a marriage to someone you truly love, reminding yourself of why you love it and taking actions to keep it fresh and interesting are affirming actions that pay big dividends. Don't get bogged down in commerce, make art (even if you're doing product shots of things you'd never buy). Do consider every image to be your legacy, and something that others will remember. Feel the love every time you press the shutter!

The "49 Project" link will be up late tomorrow. Assuming, of course, this old body holds up long enough to get it done!

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