2x4 was inspired by Cesar Kuriyama's "1 Second Everyday - Age 30" video. I loved the idea of recording snippets of life and stringing them together, but I felt that one second of video was much too short and one year was too expansive of a time period. I chose to record 2 seconds of every day for 4 months. The name "2x4" refers to the identically named dimensional lumber. Wood is often seen as a building block. It's an essential material--the most basic form of construction. In a way, these videos are the raw makings of my assembled existence.
The reason why I initiated this project is because I am unsure about how to best record and document my life. I want to summarize my experiences for sharing with friends and family (short-term) while also preserving memories for the future (long-term). I had yet to find a good set of rules to abide by in order to achieve these goals. With the technological capacity to record, save, and share any (or every) moment, I found myself struggling to find a solution that allowed me to document my life without under- or over-producing content: Too much recording and my life would become an unsortable clutter of aimless material. Not enough recording and perhaps my experiences are gone for good... forgotten.
I often ask myself the following:
- What's worth capturing?
- What's worth sharing with others?
- Will anybody care?
- Will the future me, an old man tabbing through my recorded life as a wrinkly-fingered wonderer of the past, value this content?
In my search for the answers to these questions, I found the following assessment:
"For most people, including me, photography is most often about documentation or record-keeping. It is about taking a photograph as an effort to grab a moment as it rushes by, to stage a tiny revolt against the tyranny of time. That's why traditionally we photograph at moments you might think of as scarce. Few people photograph their daily commute, but most of us only go to high-school prom once--or maybe twice." -Tim Wu
It's certainly a common belief: the value of a captured moment is dictated by the rarity or exclusivity of the subject matter. That's why you're charged so much for footage of your experience when you do something like swimming with dolphins or skydiving. Recordings of these once-in-a-lifetime events demand a higher value--at least monetarily.
But what about more mundane focuses? Isn't there some value in the day-to-day events and experiences that make up the majority of a lifetime? Capturing moments only during vacations, parties, or other momentous occasions might paint a nice picture for one's online friends or future grandchildren, but it's a stunningly inaccurate account of an actual life.
Attempts to capture these less-glamorous daily moments are abundant: photo streams and personal feeds are all over the Internet. However, they are mainly concerned with the current... with the fleeting audience of the now. They have no way of continuing on in other forms and outliving their digital lifecycles. I wanted to capture my daily experience in a way that would provide value to people viewing it today as well as anyone who might be viewing it years from now. I needed to get past the idea of a stream on a social site as being the ultimate measure of value and worth, and consider how my photos and videos would be perceived beyond today's transitory consumption.
Forcing myself to take a video every day for four months was my way of figuring out what to produce in order to appeal to both short-term and long-term viewers. I tooled around with the idea of who my audience might be. I considered future preservation. I thought about artistic merits.
Now that it's complete, I'm able to look back and identify aspects of the project that bring me closer to figuring out how to best record and document my life:
Foresight - The structured recording schedule that I used (2 seconds of video every day) was the most valuable piece of the project. Being confined to a strict recording regimen tended to eliminate the question of "What's worth capturing?" As an added bonus, due to the obligation that I had set for myself I started to seek out interesting things to do. I found myself plotting out my video strategy, trying to plan something 2-second-video worthy for the upcoming days. It was a tremendous form of motivation.
Consistency - Some days I did more than one video-worthy thing and took multiple shots that were hard to choose between. Other days I did nothing of apparent interest and struggled to film anything at all. Nevertheless, I stuck with the project (except for the three days that I forgot) and became invested in keeping the project alive. The idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts tended to keep the camera rolling.
Grouping - My project is grouped by calendar dates: it wholly sums up 4 months of my life without asking for too much time from the viewer. This is key: grouping of photos or videos is essential for summarizing and synthesizing large swaths of captured moments. Grouping by date isn't the only way to go about it. I already have a few ideas that are focused around categorizing my recordings by theme or subject matter.
Is the 2x4 structure the ultimate method for documenting life? Probably not, but I'm convinced that a combination of foresight, consistency, and grouping are key in establishing content that is worthy of both short-term social sharing and long-term reminiscence.
Further reading & watching
1 Second Everyday - Age 30
Don't Be a Padhole by Maddox
Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.
The Slow-Photography Movement by Tim Wu
TRAPPED IN AN ELEVATOR FOR 41 HOURS
Ubiquitous Photography by Martin Hand
After the initial video, I went on to make 2 more. A first-person POV for each shot has become the new rule, since that's how memories will be remembered--from my own perspective.