At the beginning of the year, I decided to challenge myself to make one photograph a day of a cultural landscape. This has been both a difficult and rewarding endeavor. Some days I have my shot before 9am and others I’m wondering what to shoot at 11:55pm. One day I might have 60 images to choose from while on another I’ll have a single shot with which to work. But every day, without fail, I manage somehow to get another photograph to post to my Flickr album Every Day 2011.
What is the point? With all the other pressures of graduate school, do I really need another project? As a long time photographer, do I really need to practice light and shadow? Composition? Content? As with any art, I must continue to hone my talent: Once a day isn’t nearly enough.
More than one hundred images later, this project continues to teach me. What is a cultural landscape and how does it differ from the traditional landscape photograph? I’m doing my best to see places not for their inherent picturesque qualities, though this remains a motivation when choosing the shot. Instead, it is important that I show a place that is about the people who have shaped– and been shaped– by the place. Its more than the place, its also the aspect of creation and re-creation. Individuals and groups of people continually impact the places they inhabit. As a landscape architect, this is what it is all about. The people and the place.
Some of these photographs are about the history of it’s making while others are quick moments that will never again occur. Some are re-photographs from earlier to illustrate the changes that have happened due to the weather, the light, or the situation. Each image should be more than simple documentation. How does my study of the place help me understand my role as a designer? How does my study of design influence my role as a photographer? Can an historian also be a designer?
Graduate school is continually challenging me to think outside-the-box. I’m trained as a researcher and I already have experience as a documentarian. I have spent a large part of my adult life as an observer. But the point of going to graduate school is, for me, to learn how to affect the world around me. To reflect on precedent, to speak in the language of form-vocabulary, and to create something new and different from what is already there is one of my primary goals as a student of landscape architecture. To do it artistically is one of my personal goals as an individual.
Every Day 2011 allows me to return to what I know best: Documentary. And the challenge of finding something unique in my everyday surroundings sometimes is the only thing that keeps me grounded as I struggle with the overwhelming charge to create something new.