WITH ENDEAVORS LIKE the 365 Project—which challenges photographers to upload one photo captured that day, every day for a whole year—there’s an order to things. A commitment. A chunk of time devoted to slowing things down. To rekindling a passion. For newly minted photographers, it’s about building up confidence behind the lens, plying their craft and tracking progress, photo by photo. For seasoned creatives, it’s about more than that.
Take Heather Canterbury, a Little Rock-based photographer who’s been snapping photos for over a decade. For Heather, a series of varied and unexpected results developed out of her efforts—a body of work that took a life of its own, and subsequently, earned her her first solo exhibit and two entries into the 2017 Delta Exhibition. Here, we chat with Heather on what it took to see her 365 Project through, and what she was left with at the end.
What prompted you to start the project?
I was looking for a personal project, backed by some passion and desire to do a little bit more than commercial photography. I was photographing a lot of weddings and families, and that’s not really what I want to do with my photography. I decided to give the 365 Project a try just to see where it would take me.
What was the first picture you took?
It was obviously in January. It would get dark right after work, so I was a little bit concerned about what I was going to take a picture of. I lived in North Little Rock, and I just started driving around. It was extremely foggy that night. I stayed in my car the whole time, watching people walk up and down the road. I felt a little bit stalker-ish, but I kept capturing these people in the fog. Their silhouettes with the streetlights and the fog. I took several pictures, and they’re all in black and white.
Did it ever become a burden? Was it easy to forget and skip a day? Hw did you keep up with it?
In the beginning, I kept up with it every day. I started planning my days around photography time. I would leave work earlier while it was still light outside. So a lot of my early pictures are a little dark and kind of gloomy. They had to do a lot with seasonal affective disorder. The winter kind of depresses me, so I started to see a trend in the photos. As spring came around, I had more time to photograph, so I’d have more photos from one day. As the month went on, I realized I wasn’t taking a photo a day—I was posting a photo a day. I had to reign myself in, and think: Am I really doing this? I had to stay on top of [the project], even though it got a little overwhelming. A lot of times there are things that we don’t want to do, but the outcome is so much greater than just doing it. In the beginning, I didn’t realize it would bring me all of the things that it did.
On your website, you mention that the series “advanced into a study of the social environments of neighborhoods in the South.” Can you tell me more about that?
Before I did this, I’d always been very interested in historic neighborhoods in the central Arkansas area and also where I’m from in El Dorado. I rode the school bus when I was younger, and it would take us through these neighborhoods. I remember just looking out and observing all of the houses. I carried that interest with me into my adulthood—my interest in how people live. I was going to lunch one day with someone, and as we drove by that neighborhood, I said, “I’ve always wondered about that area.” The person told me, “Don’t. I would not drive over there. Absolutely not. It’s not safe.” That particular neighborhood ended up being one of the focal points of my whole series. That’s where I met and made friends with several people, and they were just exceptionally kind and nice to me. One of the photographs that got into the Delta ended up being the house of a woman I’d befriended. It sparked a lot of … I don’t know, the way people perceive these neighborhoods versus what they really are.
What was the most rewarding thing you got out of the experience?
A lot of times, I would have a stressful day, so I would drive around and lose track of time. It almost became meditative for me. There are times, especially when I would talk to people, when I’d feel such an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having met that person and talked to them. It ended up giving me so much, having these small interactions with people.
Will you be tackling a #365project of your own in 2018? Tag your photos using the hashtag #myarkansaslife, and we’ll follow along.