Ming Jun Tan Ming Jun Tan

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Project 366 - Reflections of My 2016 Photo Project

December 31st, 2016
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The Start

Just over a year ago, I was reviewing the pictures I took over 2015 and realised that I had taken less than 30 photos that I was proud to showcase. I realised that the problem was my own mindset. I was always telling myself that I’ll get the shot next time or that someone has already taken the shot so I shouldn’t do the same. I knew I had to do something to change.

Like so many photographers before me, starting a project 366 seemed like a great idea to change my mindset. What could happen right? So I started an Instagram account a couple of days before 1st January 2016 to act as place to act as a diary for my project.

Waking up on the morning of 1st January 2016 feeling really hungover, I took the shot below with my IPhone. And so my Project 366 began.

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As the days and first few weeks passed by, I was neither too sure about what I wanted to be shooting nor was there any consistency to my shooting or edit style as evidenced by some of the photos below.

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#12

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(I like to sketch sometimes in my free time)

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And then busy season kicked in.

The Change-Up

Being an auditor in busy season meant that I basically did not had much of a life from mid January to March.

My shots deteriorated further into the following.

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#36

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Not happy with how my project was turning out, I made the controversial decision to change my Project 366 rule from one shot a day to one upload a day. This meant that I could spend a lot more time on weekends taking pictures and creating my own visual style.

Now I bet the project 366 purists out there are going “You’ve failed! That’s cheating!”. And if one is to consider it by just the rules itself, then yes I’ve cheated but I started this project with these goals in mind:

  1. Take more photos
  2. Change my photography bitterness mindset
  3. Find a photography style

Looking back at the project now, I think I’ve achieved the first two goals and still am somewhat working on the third goal though I’d like to think that I’ve a certain style going for me now. And as long as I am happy with myself and what I’ve achieved, that is all I need to say that I’ve had a successful Project 366.

Having gone through the year, I still do not have an idea on what I want to focus my photography on but that is mainly because I really do enjoy shooting almost every area of photography. Currently, I feel like I have different photography styles associated with the different areas of photography I dabble in. The challenge for the next year will be to merge my photography style across all these areas.


The Takeaways

Having taken thousands of photos this year for the project, I’ve picked up on several learning points.

1. Slow down and observe your surroundings and the people that inhabit it

On my weekend photo walks, I find myself spending loads of time just standing at street corners or squares just observing life on the streets of London. Life in London is so diverse and it’s really interesting to be just a silent observer. Even after a year of doing this, I still find myself slowing down on my daily commute around London to enjoy the surroundings.

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And sometimes it’s a good idea to just look up

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Regardless of whether you are into photography or not, I highly recommend slowing down and taking in your surroundings. Wherever we live, we are always running from point A to point B and rarely taking the time to appreciate the beauty of the surroundings we live in. 

2. It’s perfectly fine to go shoot on your own

This is really more of a personal takeaway. I used to be the sort of person who wouldn’t go shoot or go somewhere if I was doing it on my own and without friends. Personally, I felt that this was one of the many reasons I took so little pictures in 2015. I just did not want to go out if no one was accompanying me.

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This project has definitely helped me changed my mindset. I’ve accepted that it is perfectly fine to do things on my own. In fact, these days I find myself sometimes looking forward to some alone time spent photographing around London. It gives me time to relax, unwind and think. 

I’ve even went on my first solo trip this year to Rome. So this project has definitely made me become more comfortable to listening to my own thoughts and doing things on my own.

PS.  Music by the late Nujabes make a good accompaniment to any photowalk!

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3. It’s okay if others have taken the same photo before

As I mentioned earlier, I was of the mindset that if someone else had taken a similar photo,  I wouldn’t want to take the same photo or subject. I’m glad that this has now changed and that I find myself looking for different angles or viewpoints to a subject that has been done countless times before. In some cases, I even take the same viewpoint but give it my own editing treatment. Revisiting the same spot again and again has allowed me to see how the place changes and it also forces me to look at the spot in a different light.

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4. Some of your best photos will come when you least expect them

One of the reasons why I fell in love with photography almost 8 years ago was the ability to capture spontaneous random moments. It is through this project that I’ve rediscovered this love with some of my favourite shots having been random events or occurrences that were not planned for.

There are just too many factors that can affect the dynamics of a scene. Light, weather, people just to name a few can all affect the scene. I’ve revisited locations and walked the same routes repetitively over this year. Each time, I’m welcomed by a new scene and experience. 

Try to expect the unexpected and make sure you are quick enough with your camera to be able to catch the unexpected.

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5. Be open to new experiences

If you were to ask me what areas of photography I usually do a year ago, portraiture would probably not make the list. Being the shy and quiet person that I am, I couldn’t imagine meeting random strangers and directing them during a shoot.

However, over the course of this project, I’ve met a lot of interesting and amazing people who have given me a nudge towards trying out portraiture and model photography. I have to admit that I’m really enjoying this area of photography and will definitely be developing this further in the future.

So always be open to trying new things and exploring new areas outside one’s comfort zone. You’ll never know what you might discover or learn.

A special shout out to Delphine Lim, Lauren Tai and Grace Lee for agreeing to model for me. Thanks for modelling for a total newbie!

#284  Delphine Lim

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#357   Lauren Tai

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#356  Grace Lee

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The Future

What 2017 holds, I really couldn’t say but I’ll definitely try to maintain the photography momentum from this project. I’d like to continue building on what I’ve learnt this year and continue to develop my own style.

To all the awesome people I’ve met this year (you know who you are!), here’s hoping we’ll go on more photography adventures!

If you would like to follow my next photography journey, please follow my Instagram page. I’m always up to collaborate with people so just give me a holla on Instagram!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts you’d like to share! 

PS. I’m looking for a new project to start next year so if you have any ideas, do let me know!