15 Days Down… (30 Day Photo Challenge)

By the 15th day of the project I have discovered a very simple fact. I can only take pictures of things that I care about. Originally I had thought:

“Carrying this camera is like cat sitting. It’s a simple addition to your daily routine but you have to go out of your way to take care of it.” 

My mindset on this point has changed somewhat because I realized that even taking care of a cat reveals subtle things about your life you would not normally be aware of.


The camera has been a great way for me to connect with people, and so far they occupy the majority of my photos. It’s amazing how willing people are to be vulnerable when I’m holding this camera. Whenever I am thinking of my photo of the day, humanity seems to come to the forefront my attention. Some of the best photos I have taken have been of, or in the presence of, another person. With every day that goes by, with every photo I take, I realize that people are a huge part of my life.

One of my favourite moments from the project so far (that I REALLY hope turns out) is a woman sitting on the street curb covered in blankets, writing the word “homeless” on a piece of cardboard. I stared, frozen on the street corner, as she scratched in the “H” and kneeled down beside her as she scribbled the rest of this heavily weighted word describing herself, in fading black sharpie. I asked her if I could take her photo as she wrote. She looked me in the eyes and held my gaze for a moment before nodding. I laid down on the cold forbidding concrete where she lived her daily life and took the photo as sunlight silhouetted her hair. I gave her 4 dollars and left.

Even if that photo turns out to be shit. That moment I shared with that person will always be with me. A written confession of shame and a plea for help, made by and for herself. The fact that she was willing to have this documented. That she trusted me in this moment of struggling reality in her life. It humbles me.

If you could only take one more photo before you died, what would it be? Your expression and feelings have to be concentrated and represented in a single “click”. That photo has to mean something. It has to be something that you really care about and are naturally drawn to. Our project is less severe than that, but we try to tap into the meaning of photography in a similar sense. What has meaning in your life? Taking the act of photography beyond the arbitrary motion of snapping a picture and focusing it into a harnessed moment of reality that speaks to us on a personal level.

And for me? It’s people. People fascinate me.

This old man got on the train and rode the entire time staring out the front at the approaching tracks until he needed to get off.

This old man got on the train and rode the entire time staring out the front at the approaching tracks until he needed to get off.



The “30 Day Photo Challenge”

Last night I took on a challenge. A photographer friend of mine named Jamshed challenged me to take a photo a day, for an entire month, using his Nikon FM2 film camera.


The “30 Day Photo Challenge” 

Jamshed pitched the project to me as a “month-in-the-life-of” style photo shoot. A photo album following my life through my post heart attack, physical and mental rehabilitation. Each photo would be a little insight into a day during this life of changes. The challenge of the project being to capture the essence of an entire day, in a single shot, with no re-try.

For each of the the photos I will write a short description of my feelings at the moment of taking it. The entries will be less that 140 characters long and will be then attached to the final prints once they are developed. A blind evaluation of a captured visual representation.

Shadow Days: 

During this time, Jamshed will also be shadowing two complete days of my life. These pictures will represent the “day in the life of” to go with the month long photo compilation. Jamshed will do everything I do, for all of my daily activities, from dusk till dawn, taking photos of me in my little world.

The First Time Photographer

One of the most interesting parts of this project is that I actually don’t know anything about photography. This camera is completely foreign to me, and was made before I was even conceived. When I finally took my first photo I almost peed, the weight of the camera seems to add to the significance of every shot. After taking the picture I looked to the back of the camera to evaluate my work, to find the smooth leather backing looking back at me. I was immediately aware of my desire to see the photo I had just taken and evaluate it’s worthiness. To compare it with dozens of others and test it’s compatibility with colourful filters… But this isn’t Instagram.

Without the easy fix filters and focus layering of Instagram to tell my story, and one chance to get it right, every click counts.

The Next 30 Days 

Over the next 30 days I will be challenging my noobie photography skills to capture fragments of my life for the sake of personal exploration and art. This journey will require a lot of patience. Patience to take the time to capture the right moment, patience to not immediately judge my work, and patience with Jamshed as he follows me around all day. 😉

The camera will live with me for an entire month, fulfilling my dreams of becoming the true hipster, sporting a classic film camera around my neck as I shop around in the grocery store. I humbly accept this challenge and the opportunity to learn and express myself in new ways.


To follow the story online, check out my daily updates on my Instagram feed! @levihildebrand #30DayPhotoChallenge