I admit that when it comes to memes/challenges I find myself swinging between two camps: The first thinking that they can help unlock (or unblock) creativity because they identify a thing or idea than needs capturing, and therefore imposed ‘rules’ are somewhat of a relief and are open to play or as radical an interpretation as your imagination allows. The second camp wonders if, because of those limitations, some people might be tempted to play it safe and not push boundaries, therefore not truly challenging themselves.
Boy, that second camp doesn’t sound too friendly, does it? I bet those folk short-sheet the bed and give wedgies. Killjoys. So I avoid it.
Anyway, wondering about these things, I thought I would go to the very person who might give me her thoughts about one of the most powerful and visible photography memes: the creator and curator of the ‘photo a day’ challenge, Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim.
How did you originally conceive of your ‘photo a day’ challenge? What sets it apart from other photography memes, say the 365Project?
I’d love to say that it was really well orchestrated and planned, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but it isn’t so. It was an accidental success. A friend on my Facebook asked if I could create a photo a day challenge for a month, and because I like to do what I’m told, I did it.
I loved the Instagram platform so I really focused on putting it out there, and it went off quicker than I could have ever imagined. I thought maybe five might play along with it, but it just kept growing. I was on holidays at my mother-in-law’s when it launched and I had very sketchy internet access. I’d check in and see that each hour thousands and thousands of photos were being uploaded. I was shocked, humbled and surprised.
I think what sets it apart is that it’s achievable. If you ever asked me to take a photo a day for year, I’d say no way. It’s too big a commitment. But I’ve actually almost done just that. The monthly challenge is achievable, plus I really try and make sure that anyone can take the photos according to the prompt. I have a few ‘imaginary’ photo-takers in mind when creating the lists. I imagine that I’m a school student, a mum at home or a male worker in an office – would I be able to take a photo everyday from that list? If so, the prompt makes the list.
What do you think has been the secret to its success?
I think the community that surrounds the photo a day is a huge part of its success. I get loads of comments and feedback about how wonderful the community is. It’s a really social experience. Whether people are playing on Facebook or Instagram (the two most popular platforms) there is loads of liking and commenting going on. It’s really wonderful.
And again I think by being one of the first people to embrace Instagram for the daily photo-sharing challenge has been a key to success too.
What has been the best thing that has come out of the experience so far?
Quitting my job. Definitely. I don’t make any money from photo a day directly – but the success of it all has allowed me see how much I love being online, and how it’s really my true calling. Again, I love my community, so that’s another brilliant thing that’s come from it. As well, stopping each day, even if only for a moment, to stop and take a photo is great for the soul.
Has anything negative happened? Backlash of any kind?
Each month when I release the next month’s list I get a little bit of anxiety, because there are always a few people that hate it and let me know it. I brace myself for it, but I’m a sensitive soul and it gets to me. But I think we have to put ourselves out there, for the good and the bad.
There are also a bunch of people that try to take over my hashtags, copy my list designs and ‘beat’ my photo a day challenges. I’m not trying to compete. I’m happy for there to be other challenges. So, I don’t let those people bother me.
Thank you Chantelle! Here’s the November list for those inspired to take up the challenge! Don’t forget to tag your posted photos with #fmsphotoaday
Incidentally, my own interpretation of the photo-taking phenom, in this post, was the very post that got me short-listed in the Voices of the Year at Blogher and – this week! – gets released in the ebook.
In sum, then, I’d say I’m an advocate for anything and everything that gets your creative juices running. Because you never know what will happen.