My First 365 Project | by Shannon Douglas
I had never considered tackling a 365 project until the day after my husband left on deployment. We had just moved from Georgia to Washington 6 weeks prior; our fourth move in 4 years. Our baby, who was 2 months old at the time, was just starting to roll over. My eyes welled up with tears that morning as I thought about all the “firsts” my husband would miss while in the Middle East . With 3 older children, I knew they would all grow and change so much while he was away. I decided right then and there to document every single day so he would at least have a glimpse into those moments.
At first it was easy. I had just gotten a 35mm lens and was excited to use it. Unfortunately, a few weeks in I realized needed some inspiration. I joined several “365 day/52 week” project photography groups on Facebook. On days I felt uninspired I would log on and see what everyone else was up to. For the most, part it helped. It was wonderful to have a community of people working towards the same end goal. Some days though, it just brought me down. My creativity was waning and seeing others compose pure art brought out my self doubt.
Month three rolled around and I found myself in a creative slump. I was so over just taking pictures of my kids in our house. My faith in myself and my photography abilities was beginning to dwindle. On one especially challenging day, I hadn’t picked up my camera at all and the kids were already in bed. There were piles of laundry and dishes to do, I mean what was I thinking starting such a big undertaking when I could barely keep the house under control? Feeling defeated, I walked past my son’s bedroom, and caught a glimpse of him sleeping so sweetly. His favorite nightlight was casting a soft glow on his little round face. I didn’t think, I just grabbed my camera and snapped a picture. As I lay in bed later editing my daily image, it hit me: three months ago I had no idea how to capture him in that low light. It wasn’t a perfect image but I could see real growth in myself. I was seeing light differently! I already knew my camera better and my understanding of Lightroom had swelled. I was finding my voice as a creative!
The next morning I signed up for my first online workshop, something I never would have done before my 365. I started listening to podcasts, watching editing videos, and pushing myself to tackle new challenges. I would be lying if I said it was smooth sailing for the rest of the project, but it did get easier. I began taking my camera with me when I left the house. I took it to Target, grocery stores, even the after school pick up line until it became a habit. Eventually, as the weather warmed and we were able to get outside more so a whole new world opened up. There were some days when I had that electric spark of creativity, others when I had grand visions that failed miserably, and a few nights were I was left scrambling. Every month though, I would compare my images to the previous ones and see growth.
When the end of my challenge rolled around I felt such a sense of accomplishment. We sat down as a newly reunited family and laughed (and cried) our way through the memories of the past year. It was amazing to see all the changes just one year could bring. The biggest change though was in me.
My first 365 started off as a gift for my husband, a way to give him moments of the life that was happening while he was away. In truth, it turned into a distraction for me, a way to cope with the loneliness and isolation military life can bring. It became a form of daily therapy and self care. Surprisingly, by the end it became more of a gift to myself . I am confident in my skills now,and proud of the strides I have made this past year. I no longer feel like a fraud when I call myself an artist. I found my voice somewhere in those 365 days. I found myself.
Here are some tips that helped me during my creative droughts:
Keep your camera in plain sight so you see it daily. This especially helps in the beginning of your project as it is an easy reminder.
Watch how the light changes in your home throughout the day.
Join groups that bring you inspiration and support.
Think of areas you need growth in such as low light or composition, and focus on them at least once a week.
Try out a new technique: panning, freelensing, or double exposures.
Sign up for a workshop or class.
Keep a list of prompts to refer to for inspiration.
Use a different lens for a full week even if it makes you uncomfortable.
Take your camera EVERYWHERE and be brave in public!
Remember, not every day or even week will result in a magazine worthy images.
Give yourself grace if you miss a day, life happens but when you can, get back at it!
No matter what life throws your way, your story is worth telling. Document your journey and watch your story unfold. A weekly or daily project is the perfect start to finding your voice. Be sure to share your work with our Hello Storyteller community!