Sunday, August 25, 2013

How I Started a 365 Blog on a Whim

It's hot today, too hot to go photograph the community garden. I took these in early August. (The garden is right on the Greeway--that's where the rollerbladers are.)  

I'm photographing the garden every month for the calendar the neighborhood alliance puts together every year.  My involvement grew out of the daily photo "365" neighborhood blog I started with a couple others in 2011.

Recently someone looking to start a 365 project in his neighborhood e-mailed me a questionnaire. The questions included how I recruited for, promoted, and financed such an endeavor.

Easy answer: I never did.
I doubted that my experience would be useful to someone with the foresight to think about such things. In fact, I felt a little defensive: if I'd answered his questions the way they were framed, my answers would have read like, How to Do It Wrong

So I reframed the questionnaire into an invitation to reflect a little on the life of the blog.
This is what I wrote:

How I Started a 365 Blog on a Whim

That's great you are launching a 365 project! I loved being part of Phillips Whittier 365 for the couple years it lasted.

I launched P+W365 with what seems to me now a rather impressive lack of forethought:
sitting in a coffee shop on the morning of Feb. 2, 2011, I read a Strib article about the Powderhorn 365 photo blog and saw that the blog's facilitators were holding a workshop that evening. I roped in a pal who happened to be in the coffee shop and happened to own a car (which I don't---it was cold out and if I'd had to bus, I wouldn't have gone).

At the workshop, we met a congenial, similarly serendipitously minded fellow who, unlike me and my pal, was an actual photographer, with a nice camera. He lived in the neighborhood next to ours, so we put our two neighborhoods into one blog, and started that very evening, which happened to be the Asian Lunar New Year.

I'd blogged on Blogger before, so I used that platform again for the very good reason that I knew how. I'm as happy with it as a person who doesn't have a basis for comparison can be.
(But if I did it again, I'd set up a Facebook account too.)

Within a few months, both of the other photogs had dropped out. Turned out the congenial neighbor's relationship with substances affected his reliability: he took the cash we chipped in to buy business cards (Powderhorn bloggers suggested getting these, to hand to potential subjects) and never placed the order or posted any more pictures, even though I e-mailed him saying we missed him.
And then my pal's cheap-o camera broke.
But through word of mouth, a couple friends of friends joined, and some other pals occasionally guest shot photos.

Perhaps not surprisingly, with this sort of management, the blog sort of wobbled along. We never had enough photographers to cover every day, for instance, and a couple of us doubled-up on days. After the first year, we decided not to commit to any particular days--people posted when they wanted, and everyone posted their own stuff, directly. No overseer.

You might be thinking by now, no wonder this 365 project is no longer operative.
And you'd be right. We basically ran on serendipity until we used it up.

Also, we never tried to raise any money (beyond that first pooling of our resources for biz cards) or hold shows or do any promotion at all. 
(We did meet for coffee once in a while.)

P'horn 365, in contrast, runs a tight ship and is still going strong, so I expect their model might be more helpful to you.

Our blog did wind up in the Whittier Alliance 2013 calendar, however, and through that I am now one of the photographers for their upcoming 2014 calendar.
So one thing led to another, as it tends to do, and that pleases me.

This must sound very half-assed, and it was. It was also wonderful.
A few months after starting the blog, I spent 6 weeks walking the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. Every so often I had access to a computer, and when I looked in on P+W365, the photos were so . . . well, from far away, even the most casual snap of home seems exotic.

Very worthwhile, to see your neighborhood as somewhere else, which is really, to answer your very first question, why I started the project in the first place.

So, good luck with your 365!

My best, Fresca


bink said...

Great response. Did you hear back after you sent it?

Fresca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fresca said...

Thanks, bink.
Weirdly, no, the guy did not respond. Maybe I should have given him this advice about doing a community project:
No matter what you think of the help people offer, AT LEAST SAY THANK-YOU.