The round-up.

And so, just like that, a year has come and gone.

On October 15 of last year, I committed to making and posting a daily photo for the following 365 days. I wanted to see if a budding interest in photography would bloom, if given a chance.

For me, making photos is easy. I don’t mean to imply that I have great skill, knowledge or talent (on the contrary, I have much, much, much to learn), but instead that examining the world through a camera’s lens provides me a kind of easy peace that other creative endeavours, so far, have not.

Making consistently compelling photos is not easy. A fancy camera does not a good photographer make.

So there were (are) times of frustration and discouragement during this project. Life went on all around me, as it does, and did not wait for me and my daily photo. I have a family and a community and responsibilities. My daily photo, I’m well aware, was very low on the rank of important happenings in the world.

But it was a thread of hope and consistency to me.

Because I kind of stink at self-discipline and have been known to procrastinate, I chose to publish my daily photo project to this blog. Just knowing that I’d be accountable to someone other than myself for the duration of this project (if anyone at all chose to follow along) helped motivate me to keep going.

This decision to go public with my photos (when I tend to be very private with my creative efforts) brought up a number of issues, the most important being: why do this at all? For followers? Recognition? Validation?

For whom should I be making photos? Me, or you?

In my case, I know the right answer. But the struggle continues. Most of us want our work to resonate with others. It’s what connects us.

Photography has taught me a few things over the past year:

Begin with gratitude.

Always a good place to start, isn’t it? I’ve been so fortunate to have the means and the support to take on this activity. I have cheerleaders on my team, many whom have made sacrifices to allow me the luxury of spare time. Time for me to practice and make mistakes and then try to fix them. I have new friends and role models in the blogosphere. I have a capable light-drawing tool. And in this beautiful, messy world of ours, I have an endless supply of photographic subjects.

Slow down.

Probably the most obvious lesson photography has taught me: you need to be truly present to have the world open up and allow you to capture it. Slow down and look. But use all your senses, not just your eyes. There’s a world beneath the one you rush through every day. It’s waiting for you to notice it.

Show up.

Okay, here’s the truth: I’m scared. I’m scared I won’t be good at things. Photography, for example. I’m scared I’ll look foolish when everyone sees that I’m not good at things. But part of this challenge was accepting that it’s okay to be a work-in-progress. Even the best of us still fall under that category. Though I’m proud of my work over the past year, I’m not the photographer I want to be. Yet. And that’s just fine.

Everyone (and everything) is your teacher.

I’m trying to adopt an understanding that every experience and observation – whether joyous or boring or aggravating – will teach me something. This may be helping me cross a barrier of anxiety and self-doubt and be willing to accept new opportunities and meet new people to influence my photographic journey. Some of these interactions may amount to nothing, for now. Or ever. But that’s okay. It’s part of the process.

Well. If you made it this far in my ramblings, please accept my sincere thanks for sticking with me. It’s late and my eyelids are very, very heavy, so I hope this post will make sense when I read it over in the morning. 🙂

To wrap up my year, I chose three of my favourite photos from each month. With a bit of courage and a lot of effort, I hope to continue adding to my collection regularly.

This tiny photography bud is sprouting, climbing, reaching for the light.

Thank you, as always, for looking.

October 2016

November 2016

 

December 2016

 

January 2017

 

February 2017

 

March 2017

 

April 2017

 

May 2017

 

June 2017

 

July 2017

 

August 2017

 

September 2017

 

October 2017

 

I spy… something red.

I had so much fun during my last I Spy photo excursion that I did it again. This time, instead of fixating on circles, I had eyes only for the colour red.

I spent about an hour and a half downtown today, and almost no one looked at me strangely for snapping photos of fire hydrants and discarded take-out containers.

As before, giving myself a theme (and a time limit) to capture a series of photos allowed me to practice observation and composition but also encouraged me to avoid overthinking. Sometimes I just need to get out of my own way.

Bonus… this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Collage. Perfect! Here it is:

I spy… something round.

I’m pleased with myself: I did an exercise. The kind of exercise I like, i.e., the kind that doesn’t involve a lot of physical exertion. I spent about an hour walking around a few city blocks, looking for circles. If I saw something circle-shaped, I snapped it – without my usual contemplation and deliberation about camera settings and angles and so on. I wanted to practice observation and do it without overthinking.

I hadn’t tried this kind of speedy, themed exercise before, and capturing a series of shots focused on an easy shape or colour seemed like a good place to start. I really got into it, and didn’t (for once) feel self-conscious about whether people thought me odd for squatting in alleyways to make photos of manhole covers.

Come to think of it, aside from being hyper-aware of spherical items during that hour, I don’t really remember being aware of too much else. Which may beg the question of whether I was actually practicing good observational skills if I had eyes for only circles? (Don’t worry, Mom, I’m exaggerating a bit… I obeyed all crosswalks and made sure no shady people were following me. Safety first.)

No matter. Finding circles was fun. (Suggestions for future themed exercises are always welcome, by the way.)

Well, I can’t promise fine art here, but if you have some time on your hands, or if you’re looking for a reason to delay scrubbing the bathrooms, writing a term paper or going to the gym, feel free to take a scroll through my collection of Circles in the City:

Oldies but goodies.

I fell in love last weekend.

Lucky for me, I had two objects of affection. The first was the Mr., who was by my side as we wandered through some of the Doors Open Hamilton sites (Doors Open is a program during which one can enjoy free access to cultural and historic places in communities around the province). I’d already fallen in love with him, and that happened nearly two decades ago, so that’s old (but still good) news.

The new news is that I also fell in love with a building, and everything in it.

One of the stops on our Doors Open route was The Cotton Factory, a sprawling industrial complex built in 1900. Admittedly, it’s not in the poshest area of town. And things look a bit sketchy from the outside. But this entire historic textile mill has been transformed into a hub of talent, occupied by over 60 tenants including artists, designers, and creative professionals of all kinds. Events like weddings, fairs and film shoots take place here regularly. The buildings have been restored and re-purposed with great respect for the integrity of the original structures. Maybe the factory wasn’t considered beautiful at the turn of the 20th century, but it is now, in its own rustic way. And with a new life as a creative community space, there’s no denying the vibrant energy within.

I thought it timely – it is Thursday, after all, so a contribution to Norm’s weekly Thursday Doors feature is appropriate – to share with you only a few of the fine doors I encountered at this place. The shots are kind of dingy and don’t capture the real charm of the place, but I suppose that’s a good reason to return some day, with more time and better technique.

May 11 (1 of 10)

May 11 (2 of 10)

Welcome.

 

May 11 (3 of 10)

The red door is an elevator. FYI: the other one is a fire escape.

 

May 11 (4 of 10)

Sit and stay awhile.

 

May 11 (5 of 10)

One of these people does not have realistic body proportions.

 

May 11 (6 of 10)

Lest we forget.

 

May 11 (7 of 10)

Diverse types of studios, workshops, galleries and offices occupy the space.

 

May 11 (8 of 10)

Sliding doors.

 

May 11 (9 of 10)

A reminder to be gentle.

 

May 11 (10 of 10)

There’s cool stuff outdoors, too.

I had earlier stated that the Mr. was by my side during our visit, but technically he spent most of his time a few steps ahead of me because I was gawking at everything, resulting in a pace only slightly faster than a snail. (Poor guy. He’s a good sport. In fact, it was his idea to come here. And though The Cotton Factory is probably indifferent to my affections, at least the Mr. loves me back.)

I’ll save a few other interior photos for another post. Share the love, I say.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

And stop eating my chocolate.

december-21-1-of-1

 

I remember, as a kid, cracking open a fresh box of crayons. The rainbow of intense colours. The smooth, identically molded shapes. The smell, even! Whatever my fingers created with those flawless tools would be a masterpiece. I couldn’t wait to start.

And if there had been a smooth, empty white page to go along with my crayons? Yesss! Beginnings! Possibilities! Room to create! This was anticipation.

Later, crisp lined notebooks replaced the newsprint and shiny Bic pens took the place of crayons (not surprisingly, I was one of those kids who adored shopping for school supplies). Drawing became less of an interest as language took its place.

And later still, the tools changed again: an electronic box displaying a virtual blank page on a screen. No utensils were required, except for my fingers to tap on the keyboard.

Somewhere along the line, though, something happened.

Doubt arrived. Specifically, Doubt’s more egocentric twin: Self-Doubt.

It didn’t happen all at once. Self-Doubt creeps, after all. It took years for me to even realize that Self-Doubt was not only living with me, but it was also eating all my chocolate and hogging the couch.

It’s not all bad, though. I think Self-Doubt’s a normal and necessary companion – we need to question ourselves and reflect on our choices to be capable of any sort of improvement.

But left unchecked, Self-Doubt’s a real party-pooper. “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt,” wrote the poet, Sylvia Plath.

Sometimes it whispers, sometimes it shouts.

It wonders why you’re bothering to write/paint/play the piano at all. You’re not even doing it right. There are a million other people writing/painting/piano playing better than you. What are people going to think when they read/look at/listen to what you’ve cobbled together? You’re making an idiot out of yourself. You’re just not good enough.

Etc.

And if you listen to this for long enough, the blank page/canvas/piano keys are no longer met with anticipation so much as with dread. What used to represent potential and possibility now looks a bit like the gaping, mocking, chocolate-smeared mouth of your constant companion, Self-Doubt. Then, eventually, you quit the idea of creating altogether and instead spend your time watching cat videos on YouTube.

So. What to do? I don’t really know. I’m still trying to figure it out. Step one is probably to stop watching cat videos. Step two might be the act of showing up. Every day.

Good night, then. I’ll be here tomorrow, crayons in hand.