Back in November and December, I created two photo challenges -- one focused on photographing items I'm grateful for, the other focused on celebrating the Christmas season -- and each of them made me more aware of my surroundings than I could have ever imagined. I was suddenly so present, always looking for the next great photo op. I used to wander through life missing so much because I wasn't paying attention. I was focused on what was next, not what was all around me. With the purchase of my iPhone this year, I had the newfound opportunity to take interesting photos wherever I was. And the purchase of the Instagram app this fall was life-changing.
In "The Instagram Effect," an article by Clive Thompson featured in the January 2012 issue of Wired magazine, Thompson looks a how Instagram and other mobile photo apps are creating a whole new way of seeing. He writes, "As I used the app [Instagram] more and more, something surprising happened: I became increasing observant of the world around me." I couldn't have said it better myself. The more I used Instagram, the more present I found myself becoming.
"What Instagram is doing," Thompson writes, "...is giving newbies a way to develop deeper visual literacy." He adds, "I find it a lovely moment. Today's tech is often blamed for producing a generation of people who stare at screens. But sometimes it opens up a new window on the world." I couldn't agree more. Though there are some definite drawbacks to technology when it comes to being present (how hard it is not to check email when at the dinner table!), apps like Instagram have the ability to actually make us more present.
Since starting Positively Present (back in 2009!) I've discovered that taking photos and looking at the photos taken by others keeps me living in the moment and inspires me. I pretty much live for photos and words; they inspire me, uplift me, motivate me. And this year I'm going to incorporate more words and photos into my life. I won't be keeping track of the words, but I will be counting up the photos in the Positively Present 365 Photo Project. Check out the details below and join in on the live-in-the-now fun!
positively present 365 photo project
What's the purpose of the project?
The purpose of the Positively Present 365 Photo Project is to help you live a more present life by paying attention to your surroundings and capturing them with a camera. Use whatever kind of camera you like (I'll be using my Instagram and you can follow me @positivelypresent) to take daily photos.
You might be wondering why I chose to have a color for each month (rather than just encouraging one photo a day). I chose the color theme because I love color and it's something I want to focus on more in my life. If there's something you want to focus on more (your kids? your friends? outfits? nature?), use that as your focus. I found it helpful to create a theme for every month to give myself some direction.
How do you share photos?
You don't have to share your photos, but if you want to, I'd love to see them and I'm sure everyone else involved with the project would like to see them too! Below are some ways you can share your photos with me and other Positively Present readers.
Join the 365 Positively Present Flickr group
Tag your photos on Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Tweet your photos to me Twitter
How do I get started?
First, download the image above, print it, and post it where you'll see it as a reminder every day. Next, take a look at the tips, tricks, and resources below to help you with your 365 photo project. Finally, start taking photos and, if you want to share them, post them on the Flickr page or use the hashtag #365present on Twitter, Instagram, etc.
1. Bring your camera/phone with you everywhere. This is very important, of course! If you don't have a camera, it's going to be pretty hard to capture photos. If you have a camera on your phone, use that one or make sure you have the camera you like best with you at all times. Once you get in the habit of snapping photos, this tip will seem like second nature.
2. Collect your photos in one place. My new favorite place is Flickr, where I can store and share my photos, but there are a variety of options for collecting your photos on and offline. Save them on your computer, print them out, keep 'em on an app on your phone. Creating a central location will help you stay focused on the project.
3. Write about your photos. Even if it's just a sentence or a phrase, jotting a little note down about your photo can help you stay even more in the moment -- and it will help you recall the moment too in case you ever decide to look back on your 365 project. I'm planning to do something extra special with all of my photos once the year is through -- and writing about them will definitely help!
4. Use the color themes (or create your own). While I love the idea of just capturing a photo every day, I think it's really helpful to have some guidelines to keep you on track. Colors are my go-to for this project, but feel free to create your own monthly (or weekly) themes to keep you motivated. The purpose is to be present so you should focus on what will keep you in the now.
5. Don't give up. This is going to be tough. There will probably be days when you don't feel like snapping photos or adhering to whatever theme you've chosen, but don't give up! Even if you miss a day or two (or a week!), keep going. Make it up the next time you're feeling snap-happy or just skip those days and move forward. And remember the point: to stay in the moment (not to fret about a missed photo!).
6. Use these resources. I've found a few online resources with tips, tricks, and ideas for making the most of a 365 photo project and I've linked to them below. If you have any other ideas (or links with ideas), please feel free to share them in the comments section.
Tips to Succeed with a 365 Project: a great starting point
Shutter Sisters Photo-a-Day Tips: another good place to start
Capture Your 365: photo lists and inspiration for 365 days of photos
Photojojo Project 365: tips from my fave photography site Photojojo
365 Project: a site that helps you organize + discuss your photos
I hope you're as exciting as I am to start this project! For me, it's a big undertaking. While I can imagine taking a photo every day, it'll be hard for me to stick to the color scheme, but I think it will really help me stay even more present and attentive to the world around me this year. Since I started this site, I've done a pretty decent job at being more positive, but I still struggle a great deal with staying present. I'm really hoping that this year-long project will help me live in the now -- and I hope it does the same for you if you choose to join in.
Have you done a year-long project before?
Any advice/tips/ideas for doing so?
How else can you stay present in 2012?