Description

This was a mindfulness art project created and performed by Caitlin. Using a polaroid camera, one photograph was taken per day to document a moment in her life. The collection of photos can be found digitally in the images below.

Concept

Caitlin believes that the act of being mindful is important to wellbeing. But it’s easy to forget to participate. She began this project with the intention to capture daily life in its rawest form and be open to learning through this practise. Only one photo was allowed to be taken each day.

Background

In the beginning, I had set out to take one polaroid everyday for the entire year of 2021. I was not prepared for just how ambitious (and expensive!) that would be.

I chose to use the ‘Polaroid Now’ because it’s a restricted way of capturing an image. There are minimal settings and no means to edit the photograph once it has been taken. I knew this would force me to capture a more realistic image in terms of the overall composition.

The first photo was taken on the first of January, 2021. It is probably worth mentioning that the only experience I’d had using a polaroid camera was my old Instax Mini, which turned out to be surprisingly different. I remember making a mistake on that first photo, writing the date ‘01.01.201’ before stopping. That was the first lesson.

I managed to correct it, mostly, by going over it with thicker strokes and writing the correct number. It was in that moment that the concept of perfectionism came to mind. I had to accept that I’d made an error and that was just a part of the process. A part of life – the very thing I was trying to capture!

The more photos I took, the more I learnt. As time went on, I had stopped taking so many “interesting” photos and focused on a moment, no matter how visually unappealing it seemed. One of the days, I remember feeling really proud of myself for quickly rustling up a dinner with minimal food in the flat. I took a photo.

On the 9th of January, I was having a particularly difficult day. My plans hadn’t come to be and lots of little things had gone very, very wrong. By the evening, I had had enough and allowed myself to have a bit of a meltdown in the company of my loving partner. I asked him to take a photo of my crying (featured above in black and white.) I felt vulnerable at the time of course, but I knew deep down that this was just a moment. One small moment in my life and I knew that these feelings of hopelessness were temporary. When I look at that photo now, I see only strength.

For my particular polaroid camera, the film comes in packs of 8. As the camera was a Christmas gift, I had only 2 packs and therefore had to order more early on. That’s when I truly appreciated the price of this project. Each photograph was to cost roughly £2. Concerns arose about whether I could even afford to do this for an entire year, especially as a student.

On the 18th of January, I took my final photo for this project. It’s featured above: the one with many marks and discolorations. I’m not sure quite how it happened, perhaps I didn’t put the film in properly, but the photo became dislodged and that was the result. The decision was made to end the project from that point onwards because in trying to rectify the problem I had taken two more photos and the price of £6 was weighing on my head.

It felt like a good place to stop and not just because of the price.

Performing the ritual of taking a polaroid a day taught me that everyday is full of moments that can be meaningful, no matter their seeming aesthetic. It’s not about living everyday to the fullest, but just living.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t going to be documenting the rest of the year because I was still going to be experiencing those following days. It’s been 10 days since I’ve ended the project and I’m far more conscious of being present in the moment and simply slowing down.

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