52rolls 2015: Live and Learn

In December 2014 I decided to apply for Urban Hafner’s 52rolls project. I would commit myself to shooting (at least) 52 film rolls in 2015, develop them or have them developed, scan them, edit them, and put them up on the blog at 52rolls.net with little essays I would write for each.

To my own surprise I kept up with it – mostly, though I fell behind in scanning and posting, completing the project only a month after 2015 had already finished. I did it. I’m done now. I won’t do it this way again. Before I go, however, I wanted to share a few thoughts, and 52 of my favorite images – one from each roll – of 2015.

What will I do now? I may shoot 52 rolls of film again this year, but I won’t keep up with scanning, editing and writing. The 52 rolls community has been great, and I wouldn’t want to miss it. So I’ll keep checking the site, comment here and there, read up on what others have been doing. And mostly, enjoy the pictures they make. When I say I won’t do it this way again, that doesn’t mean I am ruling out ever doing such a project again, or even doing it again on 52rolls. If I do, though, the focus will be different. I may concentrate on specific techniques. I may shoot single images, or much shorter films.

Keeping up with shooting a roll of 36 or more pictures each week is just very hard to do. The fact that I set myself the task to not only shoot, scan and edit the images, but also to write up an essay – a mood piece if you will – for each roll, something that wasn’t part of the official project description, but something that I challenged myself to do, didn’t make it easier. But I did it. I created 52 photo essays. All along, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, but I did that.

52 rolls enabled me to give shape to ideas. Ideas that I might not have known I had. It gave me a chance to escape into a world I had not seen before, and won’t see again in quite the same way. A world, however, that I am now aware exists, in some fashion, right where I may step any moment. It freed me from thoughts of the content of my content, of the need to know how articulate what I was trying to say before I had said it. It made me creative by making me create. To do it again once more, though, would feel repetitive. Limitations are good. You can accept them, or fight them, or stretch the envelope of what they may allow. But they give you a frame. 52 rolls was my limitation.

It’s a cliché, but I learned a lot. Not in the “never knew about this, oh my god, totally new” sense. But in the experiential, learning by doing sense. I learned to produce a very specific type of content in a (somewhat) efficient manner. Looking back, I haven’t learned how to quickly edit a roll of shots to favorites yet. There are too many pictures posted on 52rolls. Some I love, some I like, some I wonder why I put them up. But up they are because I was still figuring out which ones would make the cut. I still am trying to do that, but I am more selective now. That takes more time, however, and time was precious doing 52rolls. So maybe one takeaway here is to learn how to limit how much I shoot and edit. My least favorite part is throwing away shots.

All in all, it was a lot to do. But you can’t do the things you can do if you won’t commit to the ones you may not be able to complete. In the end, it comes down to a question contained in a song by the stars of one of my early rolls for this project: “Was it all worth it, giving all my heart and soul / Staying up all night?” I gave it my all, and I stayed up much too long too many times. I certainly wasn’t as social as I could have been. I could have done a million different things with the free time that was taken up by 52rolls. For the clear and unequivocal answer, though, one simply needs to listen to the music until the end: “Yes, it was worth it.”

In 2016, I have a lot on my plate work-wise, so there will be even less time for photo projects than there was in 2015. It’s fun work, but it is work that involves much thinking, writing, and doing. And time. What time I have I will dedicate to continue learning, trying, and expanding the boundaries of my abilities. I dabbled in Super 8 last year, and I will do more with that in 2016. There will be an ongoing project involving that format. Other projects I have in mind or that are already in motion involve moving and still images, analog and digital, as well as sound, words and what have you. Stay tuned.

I hope you will follow some of what I plan to do in the future as well. On this blog, on ictusoculi.com, which is my creative outlet on the web, or elsewhere. I’m @ictusoculi on both Twitter and Instagram. Whether online or in real life, come meet up with me. I’ll be happy to see you.

Until then, stay safe. Keep looking and seeing.

Note: A version of this has been cross-posted on 52rolls.net as my last post for the project.

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