The following pictures were taken during the course of the 365 Street Photography Project by Erik Witsoe. He also shares his experience completing his year-long project and gives insightful advice to everyone who considers doing a similar series.
Completing a 365 Street Photography Project by Erik Witsoe
“In August of 2015 I had the brilliant Idea to start a 365 Street Photography Project. I have followed many photographers through the years who have made similar journeys, some with success and some not, but this year felt a perfect time to start my very own 365 days Street Photography journey. With excitement and just a small bit of anxiety I settled into the idea and decided that I would start the day after my birthday thereby finishing on my birthday, August 31st a year later. I had been in a creative slump for some time and I felt that this project could help push me past some of that by having this daily project to inspire me and also so that I could see daily results as well as a collection of work to spur me on.
On September 1st marked the start of the journey capturing an image a day for the next year. I decided to keep it fairly simple and not impose too many rules or stipulations on myself therefore the image could be from my DSLR (Nikon) or my Smartphone (Samsung) whichever I chose as long as I posted to my social media that same day. I chose to make it that I had to “show” something each and everyday as a way to force me to keep each day its own. Everyone handles their project differently, but I know myself and I worried that if I had no checking system in place, then I may fall behind, thus ending the project. I was determined to not allow that to happen.
Mostly, for this project I was very excited to see where my photography and images would take me over the course of the next year. The travels that would happen and the changes that would occur really had me excited for the next year of shooting and I had seen other 365 Street Photography Projects before and from start to finish I could see the change in the photographer, so I was equally excited to see some of that in myself. I liked the idea of a challenge to be able to use new styles, techniques and to push myself into new directions. But, then again, I really had no idea as to what it may look like, but I knew that once finished with the year, that it would be fun. I was already looking forward to looking back.
Challenge yourself every Day
Shooting each day for the 365 Street Photography Project began to pose some problems early on. Around the two month mark I began to feel like I was taking the easy shot a lot of days “just to get it done” and I started to recognize that and push myself a bit more. I would stay out longer, choose different routes to and from work. Walk longer distances all in an effort to change my perception. I began to really take another look at my surroundings at this time and the changes soon followed. Shooting each day for this is difficult, more so than most would think and it comes down to how I perceived myself doing it. I began to count the days. I posted the count like this: 12/365 (12th day out of 365) with each post so that I would know where I was navigating to. This also helped with the feeling of “having” vs “wanting” to go out and shoot. If I thought I had to do it, then I would fail, but challenging myself to think that I “wanted” to go, I found it pleasurable. Those first few months I developed a “have to” mindset and found it was extremely daunting.
Make Photography a Part of your Lifestyle
I also spoke to everyone I could about the project so that I could then generate and encourage support for it. Since I owned a coffee shop, people would come in each day, strike up a conversation and ask about it after having seen the images online. That worked for me and there are a variety of online platforms to help with your own project. Support is a key ingredient. My fiancée is my biggest cheerleader and she loved seeing the new days image emerge and what I may have come across in the form of inspiration that day. Social Media also really helped out as the immediate response of posting each image is a great virtual cheerleader. I happen to use a variety of platforms but you should use whatever feels comfortable for you. There is a great one that is dedicated to 365 day projects that I can easily recommend called tookapic.com. I didn’t use it as I discovered it after I had started my project, but I like how it is set up and I know a few photographers who have enjoyed it very much. Perhaps on my next one I will use this.
After a while, probably at the 4-5 month mark, I no longer thought about the project as I had in the beginning and instead I thought about the images I wanted to capture, or the style or technique I may use. I grew very comfortable with discovering the image of the day and even more comfortable with how it came about as I stopped caring about perfection and worked through trying new angles, styles, techniques and textures. I found myself getting excited about the way I was seeing life around me again and becoming inspired by the body of work I was producing. The sense of accomplishment itself began to drive me and the want to put another day down as an image drove me even further.
Reap what you sow
As the project continued and neared an end, I was surprised by the fact that I really didn’t want it to end. I thought about a second one or an extension to it because ending it seemed somehow grim, like losing something or someone dear to me. I was a bit afraid as to how that might look for me without having the 365 Street Photography Project there to inspire me every day. These thoughts really began to interest me and take root as I found in them the truth of it: I really loved doing this. I didn’t want to do anything else. Years ago when I picked up the camera in an effort to better produce art and creativity everyday had finally begun to really make sense to me.
After the project finished and I could finally sit back and really soak in the magnitude of the project, absorb some of the sense of accomplishment and review the images that made up the project I only then discovered how much I had actually been shooting. It is now 2017, sorting through the images of 2015/16 and looking at my catalog of imports for the year, there are approximately 68,000 images from just 2016 that I somehow managed to capture. This does not reflect my Mobile or the four months of the beginning of the project. It just seems unbelievable to me, but shooting everyday had produced that and then when the project ended I continued to shoot for much of the last few months each day before finally tapering off around December. Granted many of these images I will never use or will see the light of day, but what a journey!
Find your own Style
I am not by any means saying this could be your number. Perhaps you are a very focused photographer and shoot only one image a day so that in a year will have exactly 365 images. I tend to get drawn into my surroundings and learned that I tend to almost shoot in a storyboard fashion, several angles of the same situation looking for that one frame that will complete it for me. So, lots of extras. But not only as it was quite common each day that I would walk around 6 KM and shoot anything that caught my eye and more often than not it would be the one image I thought wouldn’t amount to anything that really pleased me the most. I started to develop a habit of shooting anything that made me look again or made me pause for a second. I looked up and down, stood for too long in puddles, stared into the thick of a bush and if none of that worked than I would switch up gear for the day.
My equipment has always been minimal. I use for the most part a Nikon D80 with usually a Nikon 35mm 1.8, but sometimes I use a Nikon 50mm 1.4 or a Tamaron 20-35mm. I also use my Samsung A5 phone from time to time, especially when travelling so that I can post if I need to. I am a believer in “whatever you have on you” philosophy and approach to shooting. I keep my everyday walking kit minimal here in the city and have grown used to this because as a group, Polish people are very wary and often suspicious of cameras. So, since I am kind of a big guy, I try to be as inconspicuous as I can be. That being said, I do draw a crowd often when I am pursuing an image in a puddle mostly because I am sure it looks so absurd.
The Lessons I learned completing the Project
Over the course of this last year, I have learned an incredible amount, especially about myself and how I approach subjects. During this journey I have learned to appreciate the little things and live by the mantra “If I don’t go, I will never know” to help drive me. I have learned to be less focused on perfection, letting it go often, so that I can enjoy the moment and be more mindful of the present. I have learned that every moment is important and to not judge it so much as it passes, allowing for a deeper appreciation of the people around me and that often there is truth in what could easily be disregarded. I have learned that there is always a story that is worthy of being told if you look long enough.
My advice for your own project:
- Have fun. Enjoy the ride. Be thankful for the journey of a 365 Street Photography Project
- Know that there will be days that you don’t want to go out and shoot. So don’t. Shoot something inside. Go macro. Have fun!
- Take your camera everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere. The first time you don’t you will regret it. I promise you. But also, stay focused to use whatever you have in front of you at the time. If you left your DSLR at home but have a phone, use it. Or someone’s phone.
- Understand what is influencing you. What pressure you are under. Pick the right time of the year to start. It would make no sense to start the day of your wedding. Or to start while you are in the middle of studies. Be protective of yourself, but set yourself up to succeed.
- Keep it simple. Really. My rules were: shoot and post one image a day. Period. But by not limiting myself to monochrome or time of the day, style or anything else for that matter, I left it open for possibilities and for this project that was the important feature.
- Have a reason for doing this. To be a better photographer. To be more creative. To learn new techniques. To lift depression. To have a sense of purpose. Whatever makes you tick, identify that before you begin. Mine was being in a “creative slump for some time and I felt that this project could help push me past some of that by having this daily project to inspire me”.
- There is no right or wrong image.
- Seek inspiration from everything around you. Look at images online. Join communities wherever you can get feedback and constructive criticism. Stay connected to your project anyway that you can.
- Don’t worry too much. Take the shot and move on. If you do stop for some reason, don’t kick yourself. Start again.
- It is your project. You are in control. You are doing this for yourself.
- Have fun. Enjoy the ride. Be thankful for the journey.
I really look forward to seeing your 365 Street Photography Project sometime. Good luck!”
Raised in rainy Seattle, resided on the sunny coast of California, these days I am discovering life and four seasons in Poznan, Poland. I followed my heart and made a leap of faith across the pond three years ago and have not looked back since. I also owned and operated Bigfoot Coffee Shop here in Poznan for the last four years, which is described as the “smallest coffee shop with the biggest heart”. To stay in touch with my creativity and share those experiences with loved ones back home, I explore the beauty of Poznan through my Photography and recently closed my coffee shop so that I could pursue this passion full time. Trained as a fine Artist, but having a background in the Hospitality Industry has given me variety of useful skills in which to draw from here in Poland where I am exploring the paths of life here that captivate, inspire and challenge my imagination.