The Time of Day
The Time of Day project began life in 2008 as a one-year project called One Day At A Time. I had a very simple idea. I believed that I had neglected my visual capacities and that I should train them. I should develop a personal discipline in which I learn to notice things around me.
I therefore set out to take one photograph every day without going out of my way to find something to photograph. Rather than going of to find something interesting to photograph I made myself look around and find something interesting right there. Since I didn’t live a life where I travelled to different places every day, or even every week, then I knew that this would become more difficult as the year wore on – and that formed part of the purpose of the project.
Every day, at least once a day, I would look round and find something to see, and find some way to photograph it.
I did not intend to produce “good photographs”. My interest lay in the idea of using this process as visual training. I thought of the photographs that resulted as sketches towards possible photographs. I used whatever I had to hand to take the images. At the beginning this took the form of a cheap Canon digital camera.
When the year ended I decided to carry on with the project but I missed a few days in February 2009 and then gave up. As that year ended I made the decision to start again, with no stopping date in mind, and that became the ongoing Time of Day project. By now it has become a part of my daily routine, and I have not missed a day since January 2010.
Originally I intended the photographs to have a title, a time, a date, and a caption. Gradually the captions became longer until, at some point, I had another simple idea. I should hone my writing skills by writing 500 words or so every day, and I could most easily do this by extending the captions into discursive mini-essays. Thus I started to write some kind of online diary: not because I thought that people would find the minutiae of my life fascinating, but rather because I wanted to keep training my writing discipline, and my daily life formed the nearest material to hand.
In this way the captions followed the logic of the original project. I did not think of the diary entries as interesting art or journalism. I saw them as training in observation. Every day, at least once a day, I would look round and find something to notice, and find some way to write about it.
This eventually began to outlive its usefulness. Not everyone who featured in the diary felt happy about having their lives published in this way. Then Auo died and I found myself trapped in a hotel room in India writing up my feelings and I realised that I had left it a day or so too late to stop. I genuinely needed to carry on writing this for at least some while. So I did.
By December 2015, though, this need had abated and I made a note that I would stop the diary. I said that
Over the six years I have been doing this the captions have grown into descriptions of my day, to the point where they describe the day’s weather; what I had for breakfast; what I did when I got to work; and so on. This has become time-consuming and pointless. People have begun pointing out that some entries are factually incorrect when I am not sure why I am even bothering to write them in the first place.
If I want to know how often it rained this year, or what time I got to work, or what I had for lunch, there are far better ways of tracking this than writing an online diary. I have an app on my iPad called Habits, which I downloaded when it was free for a short time. It would enable me to create endless amounts of lists tracking just these things if I could be bothered, which I can’t. It would enable me to make graphs and add things up and so on.
If I cared about how many days it has rained in 2015, that is; which I almost certainly don’t.
I claimed that the diary would go to sleep at the end of the year, but it didn’t. I couldn’t seem to stop writing. It had become as much of a habit as the photography itself.
On August 30, 2016, the day when Auo should have celebrated her fifteenth birthday, I found a genuine reason to keep the diary going for awhile.
I decided to commit myself to writing everything in e-prime for at least the next year, including all the daily entries in The Time of Day and this entry here. I had explained the idea behind e-prime to Auo in the months before she died, because I had decided to write my doctoral thesis in this way. The idea had both amused and interested her although she also thought it dopey. She tried writing in e-prime herself but lost interest in a while, quite reasonably, because she could not do some of her English homework without using some part of the verb to be.
Now I have come full circle (again). I can write e-prime without thinking, and my writing has changed for the better because of this. I no longer need to spend thirty or forty minutes a day practising this by writing a diary whose content does not especially interest me.
I therefore made a midsummer resolution. The diary will retrench to elongated captions, and I will put the time I have spent writing diary entries into writing notes and essays. I will aim to write at least two notes a week, and at least two drafts of articles or essays a month.
In e-prime, of course.
I put this into practice ten days ago and since then I have added about six notes, some old and hitherto uncompleted, and some new. I have managed to keep the captions below two hundred words.
I think that this time the plan might work.