Project 35: A Year of Photos

I've been thinking about new goals as the new year approaches, but I'm also trying to really appreciate the things I accomplished this year. I turned 35 in January, and for some reason this birthday really hit me. While I don't feel particularly old, I feel like I am undoubtedly of "mom age." So, to celebrate, cope, etc., I devised a photo project for myself to commemorate the year.

Called Project 35, the idea was to end the year with four sets of 35 photos taken within 3.5 miles from my house, within 35, within 350, and within 3500 miles. I framed this project rather loosely, with the idea that I wanted to notice and appreciate what was right around me. It definitely got me out exploring a lot of small towns around here and gave me that extra bit of purpose I needed when I set out with my camera. (This is the bane of my existence, needing a purpose behind everything.)

Halfway through the project, I took a fantastic photo class called the Jackson Hole Photography Workshop, taught by Michael Sherwin from WVU and John Holmgren from Franklin and Marshall. It had been years since I'd been to Jackson Hole, and I hadn't been back out west since leaving Montana in 2007. While there this time around, I had the distinct feeling of being in the right place at the right time, something I must admit I haven't felt a lot lately. I was so excited to be learning from photographers who are also fine artists, alongside other people who were as psyched as me to be sent outside with their cameras in amazingly beautiful settings.  

This was a college class, and since I was one of four non-traditional students, I often got dibs on sitting in the front of the van with Michael or riding with John in his pickup truck. I talked to John a lot about his work and how he created projects for himself (be sure check out his stuff--he does some really interesting mixed media pieces of the man camps in North Dakota, as well as some great work in the arctic). I told him about Project 35, and his comment was this: Just finish it. Whatever you do, just complete the project. So I did. 

You can check out all four sets on my Flickr site. I've organized them chronologically within each album so the progress will be apparent. If there's one thing the photo workshop did for me, it was to give me a more critical eye. Suddenly I began to see technical problems I'd completely missed before, and it was surprisingly difficult to find 20 good images for the final portfolio, despite having taken hundreds, if not thousands, during that week. That said, I don't hold these groups of 35 photos out as being fantastic, because I can see lots of flaws, but more as an example of one way to move forward while trying to develop a skill.

Since taking up photography more seriously about two years ago, I've wondered exactly what my style is and how to make my work hang together. This project has been really helpful because some themes and commonalities have emerged.  

Do you see any trends? Anything worth pursuing further? As you'd expect, the new year needs a new project.