In the digital age, the one-photo-per-day idea seems to have caught on like wildfire. There are a huge number of such projects out there, ranging from the personal work of Doug Plummer or Joseph O. Holmes to composite filters such as Flak Photo, to the sublime weirdness of Noah Kalina's self portraits, just to name a handful.
Generally I approach these projects with a leery eye. The constraint of finding one photo per day seems a bit artificial. Some days you might take five great shots and it could be another week before another good one turns up. That is the rhythm of photography. To package this rhythm into a one-a-day box seems a bit forced. Also, there's a certain motivational factor lurking in the background --"I'm going to kickstart my photography by forcing myself to keep my camera handy and find a photo today!" -- that I find bothersome. To me, the urge to take photographs should be so strong that no project should be necessary. I mean, it goes without saying that a photographer is naked without a camera.
All of which is prelude to my discovery of Byron Wolfe's (no relation) book Everyday. When I first came across the title at the U of O library my inititial instinct was to pass, based on all my prejudices outlined above. But the name Byron Wolfe rang a bell. He'd been involved with Mark Klett's Third View series shown at last year's Blue Sky grand opening, and some of the more intriguing photos in that show had actually been taken by him. I started thumbing through the book and I liked what I saw. It went into the takehome pile, and later that evening I had a chance to study it in increments while waiting for negs to scan.
What emerges from the book is an intimate portrait of the everyday life of Byron Wolfe. After looking through it I feel as if I've read a year's worth of his diary. I know his kids, his yard, his work environment, his garden, his chickens, the inside of his car, the repeating syndrome of spills near his kitchen table, all of the small things that make up an everyday (there's that word again) existence. The current that holds everything together is the seasonal cycle. The project begins shortly after Summer Solstice, on Wolfe's birthday, and ends one year later. Many of the images focus on vegetation and weather events, and as the year progresses we see the seasons in the background. We see his young kids age, and by the end of the book we know Wolfe's a year older, and the whole experience made me think for a while about the aging process, about life's cycle, about time torrenting along like a river in flood.
The book is helped along by Wolfe's light touch. These are not crystalline f/64 shots from a tripod. They are not the broad cinematic vistas of Third View. They are snapshots, spontaneously exploring all visual aspects of Wolfe's life. Most of the photos are captioned in a natural, offbeat manner that offers alternative perspective. They celebrate the normal, the vernacular, the nonspecial, and in so doing Wolfe has actually created something special.