I was approaching retirement. I wanted to refocus my life on creativity. While searching the Internet for ideas, I stumbled upon Noah Scalin’s 365 method of developing creativity. According to Amazon.com, “The concept of Noah Scalin’s ‘365 method’ is simple but inspired: Choose a theme or medium, then make something every day for a year.” I had been taking lots of photos since the days of film, but I longed to make advances in my photography skills. With that in mind, I set my sights on a photography project: I would take a picture a day of my oak ladder-back chair.
Why the chair? It was passed down to me from my grandmother. She was a creative soul, the kind of person who hooked a room-sized floor rug from old coats she bought at Goodwill. Late in life, she discovered a new creative medium — oil painting. She started from scratch and was self-taught. Her first efforts were pretty crude, but with some perseverance her skills developed and flourished. She began selling her work. The local newspaper wrote a feature article about her. She had become an artist.
That is why I chose her chair as my symbol of artistic accomplishment. For the next 365 days, this chair would play an important role in my life as I photographed it in 365 different ways. To keep myself focused and accountable for my project, I committed to posting a picture a day on Facebook. As it turned out, that was a good idea. My friends looked forward to seeing where the chair would show up next, and they were rooting for me along the way.
That being said, it was a challenge sometimes taking a different picture each day because of my job and other commitments. To create a little breathing room for myself, I started going on photo shoots with the chair once a week or so and choosing my daily posts from these photos. I also used my iPhone and a small picture of the chair for some spontaneous shots here and there when I couldn’t take the real chair with me. On Facebook, we called this “The Surrogate Chair.”
For most of my shots, I used my Nikon D3000, a camera I had owned for a few years, and my kit lens, AF-S Nikkor 18-55. * At the time, this nice equipment was wasted on me, because I didn’t know about most of the functions of my camera, and I was shooting on “auto” most of the time. Any editing I might have done to my pictures prior to this project was done on the kiosk where I ordered my prints. Perhaps all that I really knew to begin with was that I loved photographs and taking pictures. I hoped that it would be fun to make a chair materialize in unexpected places and to surprise my Facebook friends.
Since the days of the chair, I have retired and have devoted much of my time to getting to know my camera (now a Nikon D5300 *), learning photography lingo, taking online courses, reading photography books, exploring editing tools such as Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, and taking oodles of photographs in order to become a better photographer. With the knowledge and experience that I now have, it would be easy to look back on the chair photos and dismiss them because they show a lack of technical expertise. I’m not going to do that, though. The Year of the Chair taught me much and propelled me into my current enterprise, High Point Origins. Now, to keep climbing to the next ledge of knowledge and inspiration….
* 2017-9-2 I recently purchased a Fujifilm XT-2 so I am in the process of converting to a mirrorless camera. I love the size, weight, and look of this camera, but there is a lot to learn while I make this transition.
* 2018-3-4 I am loving my Fujifilm XT-2 and new lenses!
The Top Ten Things I Learned from my 365 Creativity Project
as Posted on Facebook December 27-31, 2013
1. Although I have learned a lot about how to frame, crop, correct, and digitally alter photos, what I DON’T know about photography could easily fill the pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Creating a good photograph is a lot more than point and shoot.
2018-3-4 I have learned so much since 2013! Not enough to fill the Encyclopedia Britannica, but I am fully grounded in my photography knowledge. There are a few more volumes to fill, though. ( :
2018-3-3 I now shoot raw and use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to edit my photos. I am fully schooled in the editing process in Lightroom and working toward Photoshop.
2. To take a good photograph indoors or outdoors, I must examine the entire scene that is going to appear in the frame. Moving the subject (in this case, the chair) a little, or changing my position could block out ugly trash cans, power lines, dirty socks, balled up electric cords — you get the idea. Remaining aware of the surroundings can help me avoid a situation in which the subject “looks like she is wearing the fridge as a hat,” to quote a good friend.
3. There is no substitute for looking at the photos on a larger screen, say my laptop, to make sure that I got a few good shots before tearing everything down, leaving the area, or letting friends, family members, dogs, or cats turn their attention elsewhere or vamoose. Sometimes pictures look fine on the tiny viewing screen, but when I see them enlarged, I see that things could have been a lot better with a few small changes on site.
4. Take a bajillion shots, as many as time and circumstances will allow. This goes double when taking pictures of a toddler. ( :
5. If I decide to do another 365 photography project (not planning one right now), I will definitely choose a much smaller, lighter and LESS CONSPICUOUS object to take out in the world and photograph– if I choose an object at all. I have gotten some strange looks from people. Some have even asked, “What’s with the chair?”
6. Imposing an unexpected object into a scene can make me see that place in a different way. Sometimes there is this sort of “Twilight Zone” effect when there is a random chair in a foggy woods….
“You’re traveling to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of the imagination. At the sign post up ahead, your next stop, the twilight zone.” – Rod Serling ( ;
7. LIGHT! Never underestimate the effect of a light source (or sources) on the outcome of the shot. Position, intensity, light color or quality, all of these are going to make or break your photo. Use a flash, and you will completely change the mood of the picture. If that is what you want, go for it. I often find that a nice portrait sometimes looks like a mug shot with an onboard flash, but that’s just my point of view.
8. FACEBOOK. Ok, before I started this project, I used FB rarely. Now, everyday. FB has helped me connect with friends and family and provided me a controlled medium to share my project. My family and FB friends have been very supportive of my project, and I am grateful for that.
9. I have learned to be somewhat more comfortable with photographs of myself — not an easy task. Maybe you have the same challenge…? I think a lot of people do. Instead of criticizing the way I look (Does this chair make me look fat? : ), I have learned to accept my image just as it is. Well, some of the time, anyway…. ( ;
10. I can commit to a year-long project, sustain a creative idea, and produce a large body of work — approximately 2,000 photos!