A(nother) Daily Photo Diary...
At the beginning of 2021, I rather impulsively decided I was going to embark upon a daily photo project. "Photo a Day," "Photo Diary," "365 Project" -- different photographers have many different names for the practice of making an image with intent every day for a year; often, they impose rules upon themselves of adhere to a prescribed set of prompts, guides, or restrictions regarding the content or form of said images. My project was undertaken without any such premeditation, its form stumbled upon organically.
On January first, I made a number of images. Some were Polaroids, some were digital. There were two images in particular -- a Polaroid of my son Henry pouring sprinkles onto a gingerbread house and a double exposure of my wife Jaime superimposed with the colorful lights of our Xmas tree -- which I felt worked well together.
I've long been a fan of diptychs and have occasionally presented my own photographs in pairs, so it wasn't terribly novel for me to consider these two images as a matched set. The juxtaposition of the formats, however -- the Polaroid, with its charming technical imperfections and the more formally precise high resolution digital image -- struck me. Aside from being visually striking, there was something ironic about seeing the two in tandem. Polaroids had always been considered ephemeral, owing both to their instantaneity and irreproducibility compared to 35mm, medium, and large format photography, upon which digital photography is almost universally regarded as the technological outgrowth and a technical improvement; and yet, it was the Polaroid and not the 24 megapixel RAW file (the digital equivalent of a negative) or its subsequent JPEG (the digital equivalent of a print) which had a physical, tangible valence. It quite simply existed in a way that the other images did not.
And so I decided, effectively on a whim, that I would continue to create these diptychs. The strictures were simple: one Polaroid of my son (or, later, Instax, as contemporary Polaroid film and cameras are, sadly, not as reliable as their Fujifilm counterparts), paired with one image from my day. The latter was intentionally defined as broadly as possible; I took to calling it a "diaristic image," meaning simply something from my day which had left an impression upon me, and the only requirement I placed upon myself regarding its content or form was that it be in landscape, or horizontal, orientation (and this was only to accommodate the layout I'd used to combine the two images from New Year's Day).
On January 2nd, when I made my second diptych and thus made the project official, I honestly had no idea how long I would run with it. I figured a week was the minimum; I'd probably do a month; a year would be nice, but it seemed like more of a commitment than I was willing to make. Regardless, I had a sense that if I made it through a month, I would feel compelled to make another diptych on February 1st, and I knew that if I did so, I would consider myself honor bound to complete the entire year. Which I did, in a particularly unspectacular fashion when all three of us contracted Covid 19 just before Xmas and spent the final week of 2021 infirm and quarantined at home. But even if those last images fell well short of my intentions, I nonetheless completed the year.
I confess that even before that home stretch, some days it was a burden to not only find something worth capturing, but to do so with a modicum of artistry. Historically, whenever someone would compliment my photography, I would demure that I simply take a lot of pictures and delete the bad ones. Now, good or bad, something had to go online, every day. Many days I had to content myself with an iPhone snap, or a macro shot of something lying around the house, simply to fulfill the obligation. That I was really pleased with many of the images I made only made me feel worse about those which were lackluster.
Still, I learned that there is great value in the simple act of doing, of consciously seeing, of holding oneself accountable. I was already in the habit of carrying a camera with me pretty much everywhere I went, but now I had forced myself to do so with the lens cap off, to make images I may not have were I not required to, and I have no doubt I grew as a photographer from the practice. If nothing else, I have a wonderful record of my son's third year. By the start of 2022, however, I was fatigued, a sensation made no better by convalescing from Covid. I still took my camera everywhere, but I felt relieved to not have to spend each night selecting, editing, and posting the images I'd made. Save for one post -- an image of Henry photographing me, paired with Henry's image of me photographing him -- my photo diary account was dormant for the entire year.
And then, on January 1st 2023, I made an image -- a simple black and white image of a Mickey Mouse waffle maker I'd given to my son for Xmas, but one which for some reason I especially liked. I knew I wanted to post it, but something compelled me to do so on my photo diary rather than my primary account. Within a few minutes of doing so, a friend messaged me to say he hoped I was beginning the daily project again (and very generously offered to pay me a moderately ludicrous sum as patronage/incentive, an offer which I firmly declined). I was uncertain. I'd told myself I wanted to shoot more film this year, which meant images wouldn't be ready for posting the day they were taken, an obligation I didn't want again anyway. I told him that in a week's time I'd assess the images I'd made and make the decision then -- I already knew that if I was going to commit to this, the posts were at least going to be weekly rather than daily.
So I made the decision. Every Monday, I would share seven images -- one from each day of the preceding week -- as well as a list of all of the media I'd consumed during the week (movies, music, books, etc.) and an impactful quote I'd heard or read. This felt like a better, more reflective format for me now, and one which would hopefully encourage me to not only keep on making images, but also push me to do more watching, reading, and listening than I had in the previous year. And so, in addition to sharing this year's photo diary on Instagram, I've decided to also publish it here via weekly blog posts.
The image at the top of this post is Sunday, 1 January 2023, and I hope that it represents the start of a fruitful year.
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Christopher Bruno is a New Jersey based photographer working in both analog and digital formats.