Filmmaker, circus performer and photographer Jamie Livingston took a Polaroid photograph every day from March 1979 to October 1997 – the day he died.
What can one glean from 6697 Polaroid photos? Jamie’s visual diary begins in his student days studying film at Bard College in New York. From very early on his obsessions and interests are evident. Film equipment, musical instruments, circus paraphernalia, baseball games, friends – all were a constant theme in his life. The photos were by far his biggest obsession though and numerous times we see them spread over the floor of his loft, or in later years, when the collection became much larger, a basketball court.
Many of the photos are truly beautiful and it is clear that Jamie became quite the Polaroid pro, figuring out how, for example, to capture time lapse or multiple exposure compositions on the unsophisticated beast that is the Polaroid camera.
We become privy to his thoughts too – in little editorials in the form of permanent marker on walls or the photos themselves. “Do I hate photo pressure? The photo doesn’t always have to be nice,” Jamie once wrote wrote.
Jamie’s friend, Hugh Crawford is now the custodian of his legacy. After promising Jamie the project wouldn’t die with him, Hugh and another of Jamie’s friends, Betsy Reid, organised an exhibition of his photos for the 10th anniversary of his death. The collection is also available to view online organised by year and dated in sequence (see Jamie Livingston’s Photo of the Day at photooftheday.hughcrawford.com).
According to Hugh, Jamie acquired a Polaroid camera in 1979 and realised he was taking a picture every day in the first week. From then he continued to do so. “Jamie was the sort of person who was able to rather casually get something started and then commit to it,” Hugh says.
“The thing that always impressed me was not so much that he was able to take one photograph everyday but that he was able to take only one photograph every day. There were occasions where Jamie would be there and something really interesting and special would be going on and I’d ask, ‘Is this going to be the photograph of the day?’ and he’d say, ‘Nah, I already took it, it was, you know, breakfast’ or something like that [he laughs].”
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