Fourteen months after the first click of my shutter, the exhibit 365/365 opened in the Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library in Rapson Hall on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Across the street in the Bell Museum, Jim Brandenburg’s 90-day photo odyssey Chased By The Light was also installed. When I mentioned to people that I was working on a picture a day, they asked me if, like Mr. Brandenburg, I was limiting myself to but one single shot. No, I don’t have that sort of restraint. Or skill.
It was a deliberate process to hang 365 pictures on the walls of the library. I did it with a lot of help from friends. I wanted to keep with the chronological aspect of the project, within reason. The images are grouped by month. January is the first assemblage one sees upon entering the space. But it is overwhelmed by the enormous timeline circling above. Each shot through the year is documented with its number in the sequence, the view, and the exact location of the picture. Beyond that, these months are categorized by color on the timeline. Each color relates to the map at the end of the exhibit. But the casual viewer wouldn’t get that, not yet.
The main part of the installation–February through October– is hung in a continuous block in the main artery of the library. Every patron entering on his or her way to check out a book wanders past this wall. It is adjacent to the circulation desk and near a set of collector chairs and study table. From there, one will observe that the exhibit continues back along another wall- November and December. The entire exhibit is punctuated with a flat black graphic interpretation of the geographic location of at least 2/3 of the shots: A map of the Twin Cities showing the station point and viewsheds of the images.
An exhibit opening was held on February 23rd and I was impressed with the turn out. I enjoyed the opportunity to describe some of the images in detail, to listen to the interpretations of casual viewers, to meet with some of the few people who actually appear in the collection. Having posted these images on Facebook and Flickr through 2011, I had enjoyed many compliments and comments on the individual pictures. The exhibit opening gave me a chance to share them with a much broader audience and to hear the reactions of people seeing them for the first time or revisiting them away from their computer monitors. I was most pleased when a few people told me that they felt a palpable emotional connection to some of the images and that they saw a certain sadness, a loneliness in some of the images. While I am glad that people see “neat” places and “interesting” scenes when they look at this, I am even more excited when they respond to the pictures from their hearts. When they, like me, see something greater than just graffiti on a wall, just four abandoned sandwiches on a street, just a broken window: I have made art from random photographs. I have found a personal identity in impersonal spaces.
For me, this project has always been about seeing. About seeing and remembering. This is because, as I realized as I labored through this project, I am strongly connected to the events that are measured by these pictures. I cannot look at a single of those images and not reflect on where I have been, what I was feeling, and what I had hoped for as the shutter clicked. Framing split seconds, separating places from their contexts, sharpening my vision– this has resulted in a collection of days, an entire year of dedication. I’ve gained much through this project. And I’ve lost as much too. There is a sadness in a tipped-over toy lying in the trees, in a lost shoe on the rain-drenched asphalt, in boys throwing rocks at pigeons on a pier in Bangkok. Through this project, I was able to share this. Revisiting the collection as I hung the prints one by one on the wall, watching people pause and step nearer the photographs to understand them, hearing the conversations that bounced from image to image has been tremendously moving for me.
As I now embark on a new journey (I am writing this from 35000 feet over the Atlantic on my way to 11 weeks studying landscapes in Europe) and am emotional about the things I am leaving behind, it somehow assures me that those moments will somehow last. That people rushing through a space will pause for a moment to see the reflection of themselves in those 5x7inch landscapes. I know that, as I focused my lens and adjusted my aperture, I found myself somewhere out there.
Thank you everyone who supported me through this project.