Online Video Sub-Genre Showdown: Take A Picture Of Yourself Every Day for X Years (Time-Lapse Self-Portraits)
Posted by danspira
One of the more interesting video sub-genres online is the “I Took A Picture of Myself Every Day For X Years” concept. This self-portrait time-lapse (and sometimes also stop-motion) technique has many precedents in film, music videos, early photography, art and even science, however the first instance online is “Living My Life Faster – The Daily Photo Project” by Motor City, California artist Jonathan Keller.
Jonathan Keller started the project at age 22, on October 1, 1998 and has been doing it nearly continuously ever since. He actually took an eight-month break from the project in 1999-2000 while working Antarctica and doing some world travel. Too bad, because that would have been a nice Baraka / Where The Hell Is Matt type opportunity…. a real cross-over of Internet video sub-genres.
Anyway, he won this particular Online Video Sub-Genre Showdown even before the competition arrived. For one thing, he has time lapse period the longest running to date (and therefore gives us a better view into his character development and aging process). Also, his choice of music and his variety of clothing/hair/bearded-ness makes this probably the most compelling of the lot.
2008 UPDATE: As posted in the comments in this blog, it turns out there is an even longer-running picture-a-day project out there… actually, two-pictures-a-day (two different angles, rotating head shot, synched to rotation of earth around sun)… since 1991. Artist and animator Dan Hanna posted his video onto YouTube in January, raising the bar substantially:
This online video sub-genre has attracted many participants, some of whom came into the genre independently, some as imitators and some as innovators. Proof of this sub-genre’s success is found in the tremendous amount of comment and scorn , parodies , variants even tributes that it has spawned.
“My Life As Art”
Admittedly, the self-portrait-a-day-set-to-music-video is probably the purest expression of the narcissism and self-absorption that underlies (and beleaguers) much of the user-generated content / social media world. “Who are we to take pictures of ourselves every day and share it with the world?” The same can be said, to a lesser extent, about blogs. “Who are we to publish our inane thoughts continuously to the world?” Yes, it’s contrived. Yes, the “haters” have a point in their scathing comments. Yet, this grassroots industry of obsessively self-important user generated content is expanding (and improving) every day. Much of the material is actually interesting and sometime, just sometimes, it’s even good.
Here are some of the other top contenders in this specific sub-genre category, in order of claimed project start date.
Noah Kalina [ video | website ], a photographer from Brooklyn, New York. He started his daily photo project at age 19 on January 11, 2000, and it’s still running to present. His film “everyday” is brooding and captures the relentless passage of time.
“Eyemachine” [ video | website ] from Switzerland. He started at age 30 on January 1, 2002, and is still keeping up with the project. This video is notable in its deliberate background variation and strong technical focus (including a statistical frame analysis at the end). The changing background makes it less “all about my face” and more of a video diary.
Jason Fletcher [ video | website ] dude from Chicago, Illinois. Started Jan 6, 2003, seems to have stopped in late 2006, but you never know for sure. This is a deliberately goofy take on the Daily Photo genre.
Sven and Tobias Staude [ website ], twin brothers from Düsseldorf, Germany. Started at age 27 on December 27, 2003, running to present. Rigorously done, but a little too consistent and clean cut to be engaging.
Ahree Lee [ full version] is one of the few female time-lapse self-portrait takers out there. She is a bit like the Staude brothers in terms of the stability of her image, but she takes advantage of changing her appearance (clothes, hair, make-up) to make it interesting.
Finally, just for fun, here’s one that’s NOT technically in this category of videos, but it seemed to fit the sequence:
MORE LINKS: (yes, the Internet is infinite and always growing, and by the time i’ve posted this it will be out of date. nevertheless I like to keep a reference handy)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-uT1fSa4o8 – One full (leap) year’s worth of beard & hair growth. Lots more like this on YouTube.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU6ojtBW0Qo – Nine months of gestation in twenty seconds.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQxOu_VEghY – So-so video, but it packs quite a punchline.
a couple of more recent entrants into this world:
http://www.jointadventures.de/jointadventures/opalka/ A frequently cited precursor of this fad.
This family has been taking a standardized still photo of each individual family member, once per year, since 1976.
Jonathan Keller keeps an excellent list of related obsessive photo-taking projects on his website.