I giggled as I typed the title for this blog post. “365-ish” is a good way to describe how year three of my 365 family photography project went. I shared a little bit about my failure this Fall previously but as I wrap up 2020, I am looking at it a bit differently. I fell off the wagon of documenting my family daily in September. As my business ramped up to peak busyness, my personal time (and motivation) waned. It turns out that photographing 25+ sessions of other families makes me want to take it easy with my own. Can you blame me? With a mountain of editing, three kids and minimal childcare, and homeschooling a first grader…I have a lot of great excuses for why daily personal photography didn’t happen from September-December. Here’s why I’ve changed my tune and decided I *didn’t actually fail*.
My main goal with starting this project three years ago was to photograph my kids as they grew. To not *only* photograph the special milestones, but also daily life. Both the good and the challenging moments.
My second main goal was to pick up my camera daily to improve my skills. Two of the questions I hear people ask about 365 projects most often are:
If I don’t have kids, does it count if I photograph other things?
Do my (professional) sessions count for a photo that day?
My answer when people ask this is YES and YES. You make the rules! You can photograph anyone and anything. So why wasn’t I applying these rules to my own project? Probably because I had it in my head that if it wasn’t of my personal life, it didn’t count. As I look back at Fall 2020, however, I DID pick up my camera every single day. Sometimes it was to document my family and sometimes it was to document someone else’s family. Either way, I was continually practicing and improving my skills.
Now that I’ve decided to count 2020 as a success (like how I justify this for myself?!), let’s talk about what I learned in 2020. Some of my take-aways are photography related and some are general life lessons.
If you’re a mom like me, you’ve probably been literally bombarded with the constant chatter about how this pandemic is harming our children. From their lack of socialization to how far behind they are academically, it’s constant and overwhelming. You’re damned if you sent your kids to school or daycare and you’re damned if you didn’t! Scrolling through a year’s worth of #pandemiclife photos, I can honestly say that my kids had a great year. Were there challenges? Yes. Am I coming from a place of privilege? Also yes. But I am going to try to put the worry about my kids’ mental well-being on a shelf wayyyyy in the back of my brain.
If you did a 365 family photography project this year, you’ll know what I mean. We stayed home SO MUCH this year. In three years of doing this project, I have never had so many images from my home and yard. I can pretty confidently say that I probably have an image taken in every square foot of my home. Bathrooms, closets, and hallways included. By this month (December), I was feeling like literally every image I took indoors was redundant. This feeling of redundancy was killing my creative spark.
But here’s the surprising thing. When I look through the year’s worth of photos in the gallery I created, I *don’t see* the redundancy. Each month looks different. The times of day create different light that highlights different aspects. The kids are in different moods and doing different things. Dinnertime one night does not look like dinnertime the next, even when taken from the same exact angle! This conclusion in my brain is giving me motivation to continue on to Year Four.
In past years, I never chose the random still-life, food, or landscape images that I took as my ‘photo of the day’. This year, I chose quite a few! Not only do I like the seasonal context it adds to this year’s album, I’m having a lot of fun photographing things that are not human. I even signed up to take an intro to macro course in January and I can’t wait! Next year I am making it my intention to mix in more images of our life without my kids in it.
A month ago, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue with my daily family photography project for a fourth year. Writing this post, organizing 2020’s images, and creating this year’s family album has changed my mind. While sometimes this project can feel mundane or like a chore, at the end of the year it is so worth it. Seeing our year laid out in photographs, and how much our kids have changed and accomplished, is magical. With the roll-out of the vaccine, I am entirely hopeful that 2021 will bring some inspiration in the form of travel and maybe even rekindled and new friendships.
(continue scrolling to see Summer turn to Autumn, turn to Winter)
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