Sunday, May 01, 2011

My Hands Every Day

Sara and I bought my friend, Noah's, book, 365: Make Something Every Day And Change Your Life. We found that, though we loved it and could commit to making things in general this year, we were too fearful to say we'd make something every day for a year. I did start a project to take a photo of my face every day for a year but then I forgot a day and that went by the wayside. "Something" is such a wide net and "every day" such a tiny prison.

Noah was in town yesterday doing a book signing/talk/workshop at a place called Spacecraft in Williamsburg. On day 2 of a migraine I actually wasn't sure if I could do it but I really wanted to see Noah and hear what he'd say and get my book signed so I dug up my sunglasses and hauled my cookies to the bus and boy am I glad I did.

The talk bit was about how this whole movement began for Noah. Sitting at his desk he used some huge scissors that were close at hand to cut out a small skull. He took a picture, made a free blog and posted the picture with a declaration of his intention to make one skull a day for a whole year. Crazy, right? By the second day people were paying attention and he was inspired/trapped into following through.

He told of the planning of it (hotel sheet skull in the morning when he would be in the car all day), the collaboration of it (people began to send him materials to work with) and the changeable nature of it (a carved squash dried into something different then was partially accidentally baked by his fiancee for a third look). The story that most inspired me was about the day he latch hooked a skull. He bought a kit that was for a puppy. Then he did all the planning and math to grid out a skull using those colors then he latch hooked it. In the middle of the process he got a migraine and had to take a nap and start again. Not counting the nap it took him nine hours. He didn't have fun. I'm the kind of person who often won't start something if it seems hard but if I'm in the middle of something and it sucks but I've said I'll do it I'll often keep going even when I don't have to. Remember the horrible walk I took last summer? So many people don't get that. Why don't I stop? Why am I torturing myself? Why is it so important? Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's about being at a point where it's easier to finish than to start over. Sometimes it's about seeing if I'm capable. But there's value to powering through things, not everything I know but a lot of things, even when they aren't fun or exactly necessary. It spoke strongly to me to have that reflected in Noah's experience.

He then showed photos of other people's skulls. The web site he used to post his 365 skulls is now run by 3 fans and showcases skulls submitted by readers and fans. He's had care packages from other countries, he's been on Martha Stewart and, most notably, he developed a dialogue of art with members of the US Marine Corp in Iraq. It's a fantastic thing to hear about from the man who started it all.

I sat there thinking, of course, what would I do if I did a 365 project? If. Always if. As the workshop started Noah acknowledged that being given the option of doing anything in the whole wide universe isn't always terribly helpful. For the workshop he led us, he said, "Pick a shape, any shape." But to pick our own project it's not necessarily so easy. I made hands for the workshop and I liked that. I've always been drawn to hands so it makes sense. I wanted to start cleanly on May 1st, today, so I had to make a choice quickly. That would also keep me from postponing the decision any longer since I've had the 365 book since December and am only now just jumping in. I couldn't really see myself making a hand every day for a year. I could easily see myself taking pictures of someone's hands for a year. Way too easy. I could make a dog a day. I really tried to get myself to pick that one but it didn't feel inspiring, it was too much of a piggy back on my 1000 dog portraits project. It would be far too easy to cheat. I could take a photo of my own hands. That felt like a good thing but I couldn't decide if that was a cop out, too. Finally, after a long nap this morning, I decided that if I wanted to do it then it wasn't a cop out. Or if it was I didn't care.

Today I started my 365 project. Every day for a year I'm going to take a photograph of my hands doing something. I love the way Cindy sets up tableaux and shoots them. I never set anything up, I always wait for a shot to show itself to me. I want to learn what setting them up is like. I usually use natural or existing light and I think, over the course of the year, I'm not always going to have that. I want to learn more about making lighting work for my photography and this way I'll have the gift of experimentation. I hardly ever use the timer on my camera even though it's super easy and was one of the first specialized things I learned to do with the machine. That's why I specifically made it plural. I'm not going to be taking one hand using the other (we'll all pretend this sentence never happened if I get stuck somewhere at 11:55pm with no shot and just my cell phone on me) to hit the shutter, I'm going to figure out the angles and the how I want my hands to show and how to get there in the 10 seconds (or whatever I set it to) allotted.

Wish me luck, please, and feel free to ask frequently, "Have you taken a picture of your hands yet, today?"


  1. Oh, good luck. This is going to be a wonderful project!

  2. Oh, you can do this! I love the idea of the hands.

  3. Good luck to you! One of my defunct new years resolutions was to do something creative every day but that's been quite a failure.

  4. love it! way to commit to it, and i look forward to watching it unfold.

  5. smalltownmom, it's never too late to start, as my May 1 beginning will attest! Let me know if you decide to reboot.

    Thanks everyone for bearing witness to help corral me into keeping on. Day 2 photo has been taken. Only 363 left to go!