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Photo of the Day


April 19, 2016

2 Images
    After I moved from the Bronx to Denver in 2006, I vowed to take one photo each day. It had been a rough year, and the project began as an effort to see the beauty in a bleak world. Although it sometimes felt forced, I liked the project — and the results — so much that I did it again the next year, and the next, and the next. I began to post my photographs to a blog, and shared them with curious friends. 
    At the beginning, I was working with what felt like a toy camera: my first digital, an off-brand thing I had bought several years earlier in my first eBay auction. Because digital cameras weren’t yet a standard commodity, it was expensive, but it was also crude. The photos it produced were grainy and too dark, but I didn’t care. They were simple photos of my partner, our dog and the foods we ate.
    When that relationship ended in 2009, the project became about taking photos of the small things I was doing each day to keep myself happy: cloud formations, grass stains on my skirt. Ice cream made repeat appearances. 
    When I moved to Philadelphia later that year, my photographs became starker, focused on architecture and blizzards, neon light inside dive bars, my bicycle, my running routine, the overflowing ashtray on my back patio. 
    In 2010, I moved back to Colorado, to work on an organic garden and grass-fed cattle ranch nestled among the foothills of the Rockies. Those photographs were my best: seedlings in a vast field, the Rorschach-markings of the cattle’s faces, vivid salad greens beneath the running tap, my coworkers bent to harvest or upright, defiant against the valley’s freakishly strong winds. That world and lifestyle were so naturally beautiful that I oftentimes couldn’t decide which should be my photo of the day, and I would choose a handful instead of one. 
    On the farm, I used a cheap camera made by General Electric, but because my life was heavy with dirt and grit, I scratched the lens before a month had passed. I learned the coolest of tricks* to temporarily ameliorate the scratch’s effects on my photos, but during my years on the farm, I ruined more than five of those dinky cameras and kept exploiting the manufacturer’s warranty to get replacements. 
    The last of those cameras followed me back to Philadelphia in 2012. I walked, biked and took the train from place to place, which gave me more time to look around and observe my surroundings. There were many days when I would convince myself to attend an event so that my photo for the day would be dynamic.
    The company I kept in Philly ensured that my photographs were dynamic, too: My roommates were trapeze artists, my partner a natural history museum exhibit designer, and I spent a lot of time with an old college friend we called our “Cultural Ambassador.” She knew everything that was happening on any given night in the city, and also how to get there. 
    For months after I broke my leg in 2014, I made a valiant effort to continue the project. I took copious photographs of my cast, or my painted toenails on the wheelchair foot rests. I brought the camera to doctor’s appointments and took shots of the cats when they sat down beside me on the bed, which is essentially where I existed for nearly eight months. But I got aggravated by the static scenery and how limited my scope became, and I quit taking photographs a few months before moving to Statesboro. 
    When the cast was removed and I could walk again, I guess I had gotten so used to seeing my surroundings as tedious in the time I spent bedridden, unable to care for myself, that I didn’t immediately revisit the project. Even healed, I spent most days at home, and I’d convinced myself, erroneously, that home wasn’t photogenic. I also had the misperception that because I no longer lived within a frenetic cityscape like Philadelphia, or among the stunning rock formations of Colorado, my photographs would ultimately be boring. 
    It’s been another hard year, and maybe that’s why something has shifted recently. In the past few months, I have begun to take pictures again. While my spouse isn’t one for photographs, I strive to capture the intricacies of our life together through the things that we own, care for and love. 
    In seeking out these subjects, I’ve started to notice details in my immediate surroundings that I hadn’t seen before: the delicate shadow play of house plants, or chandeliers; a shockingly red cardinal in our only pear tree; insects atop azalea blossoms; the silken quilt of pollen within the lily; water on the shower wall; the very meals we eat. 
    At times over the years, this project has brought me out of my comfort zone and led me to go out in active search of what is remarkable. I’ve attended parties, bonfires and performances I wouldn’t have gone to had I not needed a dynamic photo of the day. 
    But more times than not, it has helped me to acknowledge what loveliness lies close at hand. Somehow I had forgotten that this was the point all along, for all these years: to seek out beauty in this sad and dangerous world, and no matter where I found it, to share.

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