By Niki Sol
Two years ago, a friend of mine started a photography project where he took one picture each day for the entirety of 2015. For him, the project gave him an opportunity to experiment with his photography and try new techniques. He posted each new picture to Instagram and I found myself looking forward to seeing what he chose to share with his network each day. Some photographs were of his family (including his infant daughter), people he saw on the streets, objects in everyday life, or places he might visit (his pictures of a trip to Dachau were particularly resonating). As 2015 wound down, I began to flirt with the idea that I should try my own photography project for the coming year. I was starting a new chapter of my life, moving back to the UK after a two-year absence to start a new career as an academic. I had no idea what might unfold and the idea that I could share that journey with my own network of friends and family appealed to me.
The Artist Within Us
I believe we each have an artist of some sort in us, but too often many of us feel we cannot “indulge” that part of us. The past decade of personal trials and tribulations taught me that indulging our creative side is often exactly what we need for our well-being. I too often get caught up in my own headspace about what I have been doing wrong or what I should be doing, instead of simply being mindful of what was happening around me in that moment. Thus my photo project, titled 2016, commenced as I arrived in the UK on 1 January, 2016.
If you were to look at my 366 photographs in one sitting, you would notice certain themes emerge: dogs, nature, and architecture. You would probably also note that I like to play with light a lot in my pictures. Some of the pictures (particularly of architecture, performances, and street art) are already meant to be admired by the passerby. These pieces call out to people saying, “Look at me! I am art!” Capturing those instances of someone else’s art reminded me of other people’s interpretations of their experience. We should, more often, take the opportunity to stop and enjoy what others have created for us to engage with.
But I also love the moments that simply occurred around me: the beauty of a moment that is finite whether because of movement (of myself, others, or the sun) or time. I found myself looking beyond my destination (must get to work, need to start this, have to finish that) and enjoying my journey through the day. Walks to somewhere became adventures. What would I see? Who would cross my path? And my photographs reflected this. I found humour and splendor, sadness and hope. I paid attention to creatures big and small as they went about their days. I saw moments where nature punched me in the gut with its awesomeness.
Interestingly as the year ended people in my Facebook network reached out to me to thank me for 2016, even individuals that I am not particularly close with. They told me how much they enjoyed my photographs and the feelings those photos conveyed. On social media (even though we might have a large network of friends), those we might not engage with regularly often move to the periphery of our lives even if we all still have a window into each other’s worlds. The connection that my art made beyond my intended audience of family and close friends reminded me how linked we are.
Now that the project is done, I notice my increased mindfulness in my daily life. I attribute this in part to 2016. I engage more with the world around me in a way that allows me to appreciate moments like those captured in my photographs. Instead of hurrying to “what’s next”, I intentionally experience the time and space I am in. And I am grateful that sharing these instances with my social circles (small and large) has brought more of a connection to the beautiful world around us. I take these lessons with me into the new year and look for new ways that I might engage with my surroundings.