A huge part of me doesn’t want to write this blog post. My brain is a swirl of anxiety, it’s trying everything it can to avoid failure and rejection. It doesn’t want to face the fact that my craft needs re-honing. It wants to curl up in a little ball and keep hiding from the world.
Screw that part of me, let’s do this.
I’ve decided that, after about a decade since it’s first emergence in my life, I’m going to do the 365 Days Self Portrait Project in 2019.
When I first went to SMFA, I wasn’t quite sure where to start with my photography. I didn’t have a lot of art experience, I’d spent most of my early years shooting sports and self portraits. After a slightly unstable first year, I bounced back my sophomore year with this project, which worked like this:
I took one photo of myself every day for a whole year. That first year, I was strict about the rules: the photo needed to be taken on that specific day, it needed to include my body in some way and if I cheated, I had to own up to it.
It’s a lot harder than it sounds. A LOT.
There were days that I hated this project. There were days where I took one photo at 11:59pm and another at 12:01am to minimize my daily impact. There were days I set photo timers so I didn’t even bother thinking about what the image would be. There were days I phoned it in with Photo Booth shots (remember that old school Apple program?!). There were even days I used my garbage flip phone camera from high school. I took shots I loved, I took shots I still hate are recorded online, I took shots that ended up being part of my school portfolio and I took shots that later produced other projects down the line, including my senior thesis.
This project changed my art school career and accidentally turned me into the self portrait chick at school. I still look back at it fondly, even the bad days, and remember how much it taught me about photography and myself over that first year. Now, a decade later as I just hit my 30th year around the sun, I’m going to give this another go.
My 2018 was rough, to say the least. While it will always be one of the happiest years of my life with my engagement to Ed, it’s tested my mental and physical health more that any other year. I’ve been in more doctors’ offices, I’ve seen more mental health professionals, I’ve experienced my worst panic attacks and my deepest lows of depression. It’s been… yeah, I’m gonna stick with ‘rough.’
This project is what I need right now. I need to remember why I loved photography in the first place. I need to stretch my creativity again. I need to do something for me that doesn’t involve my day job, my apartment, my partner - I need something that’s MINE. 365 Days of ME.
To make some things a bit easier on me, I’ve come up with a few basic rules (because let’s be honest: I’m not a 19-year-old college student whose job was literally to take photos anymore.) Here’s how it’ll break down:
One picture must be produced every day of 2019.
That picture must include some semblance of “me,” however I’m going to be a touch more liberal with that definition this year. “Self Portrait” can include:
A mental representation of “me.”
Clothing or personal objects.
My partner or pet (however this is only to be used sparingly).
To challenge myself, I must create THREE “mini projects” inside my 365 Days. This can include something similar to my 2008 mini project, “7 Secrets in 7 Days.”
I need to produce at least one blog post a month with updates on the project. This can include interesting photo specs, editing processes, outtakes and “mini project” descriptions.
I am allowed TWO lost days. Because shit happens.
I must post in Instagram every day, with these allowed exceptions:
Mental or physical health concerns.
I can’t rely solely on boring iPhone selfies. I need to strive for using my DSLRs as often as I use my iPhone.
If I use film, I’m allowed a placeholder until the film gets developed. Then the photo with be swapped out.
You’re probably laughing at this absurdly serious list of rules, and I get it. However, what I learned my second year of doing this project (which got lost many years back and is only partially finished): I need real rules or I just won’t do it. I’ll make excuses, push the project aside and forget about it a few weeks into the year.
Not in 2019! This is the year of finding my photographic voice again. I want to produce one photo a month that I’m proud to have shot. I want to up my lighting and editing game, both of which have slipped since I started working professionally. I want to end 2019 with a bang, the complete opposite of 2018, which ended mostly in quiet mourning.
Let’s do this bitch.
To follow what I’m up to, you can sign up for my blog newsletter and follow me on Instagram at liz_lepage.
To see my original 365 Days project, you can visit my Flickr page here.
And the most important aspect to all this: help keep me in line as I work throughout the year. I’ll need it.
Lots of love,