On December 31, 2014, I shared my thoughts on going on a journey to challenge myself as a photographer. All of a sudden I had this strong feeling that I needed to do something different to reach out to higher levels of what I could become. On January 1, 2015, my journey started.
My ﬁrst portrait was a self portrait. I remember thinking ironically “great, it is the ﬁrst of the year and I already had a cancellation…that started well”. Things got better after that. I set myself on a strict plan of calling everybody I knew, posting on my website, talking to the neighbors and asking friends of friends about being photographed for what I called A Portrait a Day project. Some people found me online and volunteered.
I had a plan. And a purpose: I wanted to make new friends, expand my network and become a better photographer in this process. Every day I found a different person and asked them to be my portrait of the day.
My biggest challenge was dealing with with cancellations. I would ﬁnd somebody who would commit to be my portrait next week and when I would call one day before to conﬁrm I would hear “Something came up”. Then I would have to rush out of the door with my wheeled cart with camera, lenses, ﬂashes, ﬁlters, umbrellas, softboxes towards a busy shopping center, or a bank, or a park to ask strangers if they would volunteer for my project. Winter was easier as more people stayed home. Summer had a 50% cancellation rate, maybe more, but I always found a person, even on vacation, at 12,000 feet on the top of the mountain.
One of the most touching stories was in fact, a man I met on the top of the Rocky Mountain National Park at 12,000 feet high while I was on vacation. I arrived at the top of the mountain and saw this man leaving his car. He was tall, with a white beard and he was alone. I asked my friend to come with me to approach him. I explained about my project and he said yes. I asked him to share three things about himself, as I asked every person the same. He shared that he came from Mississippi on a healing journey. A few years ago, his wife of over 31 years had passed on Christmas, then about a month later or so, his mom, who was 100 years old, passed, and later on a tornado dropped a tree in his house…he thought God was telling him to move, so he started traveling. My sweetheart, Mike, asked him if he believed in love at ﬁrst sight and he said “sure, I dated my wife for 6 weeks and married her for life”. He had tears in his eyes. Mike asked him to make a prayer for him and we all gave hands. Mike made this beautiful prayer for healing his soul and we were all crying! It was a touching moment and I felt blessed to have met him. He still emails me every now and then.
I learned that most people will talk if you listen to them. I loved hearing their stories. I made new friends. Some for life. I got much better at my craft of photography and I deﬁnitely developed a dramatic, honest portrait style that I enjoy very much creating. Because I challenged myself, today my body of work is consistent, and I can photograph in any kind of space and light situation. I have created images in basements, parks, small rooms and big rooms and I have used the weather as much as a tool as I used my ﬂashes. I met incredible people and wrote a book about it.
While I prepare to write and publish my second book, the behind the scenes of how those images were created, I am very thankful for taking the time, committing to the project and having discipline to complete it. And now I am starting a new project: a year photographing twins!!
I loved meeting all these people so much, I created a collage of all 365 portraits with the Design Aglow Insta Canvas template so I can walk in my home and see all those faces everyday. I love my collage and it is a treasure to me.
Photo by Mary M. Dahlberg