WHAT IS THIS?
I'm still working that out. As it stands right now, I make a photo on my phone every day. I started on January 1, 2019.
Why not? Make something or don't, it doesn't matter.
365-day projects are not unique, nor novel, nor revolutionary. Previously, I wrote about a different album every day of 2013. (I will not link to that because I do not like my writing from that period. In retrospect, it reads quite juvenile.)
I am not a writer by trade, but still enjoyed having something consistent to tend to each day. It was a significant amount of work. This is easier. I take out my phone and make a photo of something I think is interesting. I intentionally wanted to remove the work from maintaining an habit such as this.
Keep it simple, stupid.
WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND THE NAME?
The title PROOF OF LIFE is a flip on a phrase I later found out specifically referred to kidnapping victims.
I moved to Brooklyn right before the pandemic began in March of 2020. Prior to this time, this project did not have a formal name.
I firmly believe New York City experienced a very different pandemic from the rest of the U.S. Being away from my family and friends for many months sent me into a hideous place for much of that year, which I think is reflected in the work from that period.
I used this project in 2020 as a vehicle to make sure I did not succumb to an untimely end. I felt unmoored, kidnapped from myself – my body, my brain – because of the isolation and deep-seated loneliness. Forcing myself to get outside of my apartment every day to ensure I kept up with this was a powerful motivator. Sometimes, I didn't actually make it out of my apartment building. But I made sure to follow the light, even if it was just a reflection, a shadow on my walls.
After making it out of 2020, I started hearing the phrase PROOF OF LIFE in my brain. I began to personally refer to this work as such in late 2021. I started publicly calling it by this name in 2022.
WHERE DO THEY LIVE?
The first 4 years were available only on my Instagram stories. I began publishing them here online in January 2023.
HAVE YOU EVER FORGOTTEN A DAY?
Yes, 5 in total: April 16, 2019; April 28, 2019; November 10, 2019; November 17, 2019; and January 15, 2020.
(Also one time I was on a plane back to Chicago from New York and my phone hadn't recognized the time zone change, so it thought I had made a post-midnight photo in the previous day. Whatever.)
HOW DO YOU REMEMBER TO MAKE ONE EVERY DAY?
An indefinite, daily reminder on my phone that hits at 6:30 PM ET. But at this point, it's so concrete in my brain and my routine, it'd be difficult to forget. It's nearly always in the forefront of my mind to complete.
WHY DO THEY LOOK LIKE THAT?
From January 1, 2019 to February 28, 2021, I used an app called HUJI to make these photos. I stopped using the app's randomized effects in June 2020 because I was tired of that style. I liked HUJI a lot because it branded each photo with a date à la traditional disposable cameras.
Beginning March 1, 2021, I began using DISPO*. Initially, I was using the "OGCAM"; later, I liked "VIBECAM" and occasionally "NOIRCAM." Most everything now is – and has been for some time – shot in "MATTECAM."
*FWIW: In no uncertain terms, fuck David Dobrik and what he did. My understanding is that he no longer has control over the app despite being the founder and creator. Were he still around, I'd have found an alternative.
DO YOU EDIT THEM?
No, but sometimes I wish I did. Moving them from being exclusively on my hand computer for the first time after finishing the 4th year made me realize how many shots are cantid or out of focus. "lol" and also "lmao"
The most editing I've ever done is rotating a photo shot from portrait to landscape.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHAT TO PUBLISH?
Sometimes, I will make many photos on a given day in order to have options. Other times, if my brain is empty, I'll just go with whatever I happened upon that day. If I see something out in the world that I think is interesting but already have something picked out, I'll try to come back to it if I can. I really try not to think about it too much and keep it moving.
SOME OF THESE PICS KINDA SUCK, MY GUY
They can't all be winners, pal.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BURNT OUT?
In general or because of this thing? Either way, yes to both.
WHAT HAPPENS IF DISPO SHUTS DOWN?
Not sure, but that might be the catalyst for closing out this project. There are many alternatives, but I've enjoyed the simplicity of both HUJI and DISPO. Could I take these using a real camera? Sure, but that would significantly affect the workflow.
WHEN WILL YOU STOP?
Buddy, who knows.
WAIT, WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?
I'm Alex Schelldorf. I live in Brooklyn, NY. My other non-phone photograph work is at AlexSchelldorf.com.