I’m a hopeless sap. There is no escaping it. Because of this, I look upon New Year’s Resolutions as a genuine opportunity to instigate real change in ones life. I am confident that if you approach them with the right balance of realism and practically, they can be a genuine trigger to help you start the process of achieving goals. Procrastination is the thief of time, all you need to do is start.
One lesson I continue to learn throughout my life is that change only comes in baby steps. Instant, measurable change is rare, if not a fallacy. Start chipping away at your goal and one day you’ll stop, look back and suddenly the volume of change will become appreciable. You can’t realise a New Year’s resolution in January (and if you’re me, you can barely manage to get them documented in that time).
Last year, I decided that rather than throwing together the standard set of loosely connected improvement wish list, I’d focus on a theme. I set seven photo projects for myself in an attempt to broaden my creative horizons while keeping to a theme that allowed me to explore something in a deeper fashion.
During the year, unexpected changes in my work life demanded far more attention than ever anticipated, and I largely neglected my hobby. The older I get, the more I learn about myself, and one thing I’ve learnt over the past two years is that I’m not someone who derives pleasure from sitting around. I enjoy myself the most when I’m productive and engaged in something. Photography enables me to indulge my fledgling creative side while producing something at the same time. It takes a bit of dedication, hard work and engagement that I often crave.
Over the last year I’ve really struggled with the lack of time, and often its dragged my mood down as I constantly find myself away from camera and computer for long stretches. Despite a chronic absence from the camera, 2010 was a year filled with rich and rewarding opportunities that I’ve both cherished and been beyond fortunate to have. Although my hobby may have taken something of a back seat, you’ve got to be prepared to grasp opportunities when they come along.
Ultimately it’s the little things that stick with you. Brief snapshots that burn their way into your memory and instantly ground you. An honest smile from a homeless child on the streets in Manila, a world away in every sense, but still happy. Watching the golden sunset light stream in as you sit and relax in your first home. The beautiful and gentle face of my girlfriend, half hidden by the pillow as she first wakes up in the morning and smiles. It’s not always about the goals you didn’t reach, but the experiences that took their place.
Looking back on things, what I really desired and missed out of most projects was something a bit less transient than some photos on Flickr. I feel like with something a little more concrete to work towards, the projects might have drawn a bit of extra attention. What I really desired out of most projects was the production of an album that I could get printed or post online. Something that resembled a body of work, rather than a collection of disjointed shots. Sadly, I never had much of a plan for this, and as is always the case, you can’t execute on a plan you don’t have. Focusing on this aspect is one of the main goals for 2011.
There were some successes, such as the RSPCA project which saw enough money raised and resulted in me joining the ranks of drunk girls on Spring Break everywhere and ending up nude on the Internet. Is that really a win? You tell me! I also had some partial successes as I began to work on some of the projects, I just never made it through to the final goal.
I really love the project idea, and I think it has merit. This year I’m going to continue on that path, but to keep things a bit more tightly focused, I’m going to reduce things down to one major project, and one ongoing goal.
Major Project: Produce a Photo Book
Goal: Produce and print a photo book by the end of 2011.
I would really love to produce something I can hold in my hands. Something concrete I can work towards producing. My major goal for 2011 is to produce a book of photos taken throughout the year.
It’s easy to take a bunch of existing photos and fire them off to an online service to generate a book, but I’m not after just a random collection of my photos printed up. The goal is to come up with a theme and then using photos produced in 2011, turn that into a book. Depending on the theme, this may require delving into some of the areas I failed in last year (lighting, street shooting, portraits, black and white). I’ve got no idea what it will be yet, but the end goal is set and known.
Project Two: Thing a Week
Goal: Post something worth sharing here once a week.
I’ve neglected the inner year 9 creative writer in me for far too long. I used to post to my blog frequently, but as is common, with a lack of time came a lack of effort. The second project is to post something I find interesting to the blog every week. I’ll try and stick to the photography theme, but I have a feeling it’ll reach a little wider than that. I don’t intend it to be anything I produce, although it may fall that way from time to time. Whether it’s something funny, sad, challenging or otherwise engaging, I’m looking to share at least once a week. It matters less what it is, and more that I am triggered to consistently look around my world for something to share.
BONUS! Project Three: Dedicated Time
Goal: Make dedicated time for photography.
This final goal if a bit of a bonus, but it’s something that is needed to meet the first two. Like everyone, my life is busy and work is demanding. I can’t escape it. Last year I often found myself angry and frustrated at the rarity of my shooting. This frustration is not only a pointless waste of energy, but counter-productive. The overall theme of the goals this year is to take dedicated time to engage with the hobby.
I’m splitting the time into two separate types: weekly time and one-off dedicated chunks.
Firstly, I’ll take a night during the week to turn off the TV, get a quick dinner and focus on being productive. I’ll also take at least half a day every weekend.
Secondly, I plan to have three dedicated photography trips. Why three? No reason at all. I already have one booked and ready, taking a trip away by myself to shoot landscapes for a week. To complete the plan, I’ll find two smaller weekend-level trips to dedicate to shooting above all else.
While the ongoing dedicated time allows me to dedicate myself to enjoying photography, it also means that the time outside of this should be dedicated to other things. A major motivation here is to end the pain for my long suffering girlfriend (who has to endure my grumpy moods) by ensuring I get my fix. During the trips time, I give myself permission to be a little selfish and indulge. Each day spent like this needs to be balanced out with a day where it is put aside. Balance in all things and family above all else.
So there we go. I’m both hopeful and confident that these projects provide the opportunity to instigate genuine change, introduce more balance and create something I can be proud of. A year is a long time, and baby steps, though small, can add quickly.