THE END by Toni Ahvenainen

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen. Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO100, 30sec, f/9.0, Raw. Flickr account

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen.
Sony Nex-5N, Zeiss Touit 2.8/12, ISO100, 30sec, f/9.0, Raw.
Flickr account

Season of Photographic Eye - picture 17
Week 1, Wednesday

The end has come. Some could say a little too early while I might say finally. The thing is, I have photographed quite a bit during this year. Not only have I photographed for this project, but I’ve also done family photographs and other random things along the year. The shutter counter of my Nex-5N shows 79871 actuations, which means, if my math is correct, that I’ve shot something like 50 000 frames during this year (there’s a lot of chaff in there and my keeper rate is about 10%). It’s a large number for me and while I have enjoyed this project a lot, it takes quite a bit of endurance to keep on photographing week after week, to write blog entries and to worry about the next picture. And to be honest there has been a bit of combat fatigue as the end of the project has come closer. Not sure if I could have kept going, for example, another month. To put it shortly, this has been a great project but I’m glad to see it coming to an end now.

When I started this project I hoped it would catalyze inspiration for others, make people shoot and enjoy photography more. It was a nice idea and while my project might have inspired some during the year, I realized some time ago that it was really other way around. There’s quite a bit of work behind the scenes and I didn’t have all that inspiration & effort within me when I started – instead I got it from all of you who followed my project, commented my pictures or just browsed them for your own pleasure. You were the magic source of inspiration that made me continue week after week. Realizing that this is how the thing is, I’ve felt guilty that I haven’t always been able to give back even if I have always tried to check other people’s work as much as possible. Because my project has operated on four different forums and Flickr, and with all other things going on it would have been practically impossible give back to everyone. I also had idea that I would collect the screen names of all who have in some way been in contact with my project and I would thank them all in the last post. Unfortunately it is impossible as well (and it would still be too likely that I would miss some of the names). So instead of all that I just need to thank you all for the support. Thanks to all of you!! Without your encouragement, criticism and inspiration, as well as humor, patience and expectations this project would never have realized. I will owe a lot to all of you.

Now that I’ve come to an end, did I find what I was after? It seems quite unbelievable that quite precisely a year ago I uploaded the first image of this project not knowing if anyone would actually wander to my site. Since then a lot of has happened. For example, my work was featured couple of times on Steve Huff’s website, which is a biggest individually run photography site in the net. My work was also found by BoingBoing.net which is a webzine read by millions every month. During the year my project also found supporters from major companies like Lensbaby and Zeiss, which induced a new kind of challenges to my photography. I also got a phone call from Sony. Throughout the year my photographs were viewed approximately 350 000 times from different sources. And on top of everything there was a small story about my project at the DPreview.com, which is the biggest photography related site in the net with over 8 million unique visitors in a month. If ‘getting seen’ by as many as possible would have been the goal of this project I would have surely achieved it by now. But it has not been the goal. As exciting as that game has been and as intrigued as I’ve been to see how far I can play it, it has merely been byproduct of some sort. The goal for my project was that I would find my own photographic eye, a personal way of seeing things and world through a viewfinder. As for achieving that I can only say that I’ve seen some glimpses of it through these photographs. There as some pictures that I think have something in them, but to become master of my own photography is still a project that is very much incomplete – and I’m not sure if I will ever be able to achieve it as well as some other photographers has succeed on finding it with their own work. As a photographer I’m definitely something else than what I was when I started, but in some ways I feel that after I’ve closed this project I’m at the starting point again, asking what should I photograph, why and how. 

But even if I didn’t quite find my photographic eye (at least completely), the personal meaning of this project has become something more than just photography. Like many others, I have shared a certain belief or a way of thinking that there are things in life I cannot affect, and that I’m in some ways subordinate to those things. Maybe they are structures of society, inner belief of some kind of a personal fate or the lack of encouragement from others. For me this project came to symbolize that I can achieve things that I never believed were possible for me. It means that with effort, energy and inspiration I am free and I can affect things that will happen in my life – like nations create their history, I create my life. Personally to me, this has been a very emancipating experience and perhaps the most valuable outcome of this project which is stored in these photographs as well as in my heart.

Many people have been asking what I’m going to do next and will I have another project for the coming year. First of all I need to catch my breath and see where I am at the moment. I have to say that, for a change, I’m glad to photograph in a normal way that isn’t about ‘getting the next picture’. But, I wouldn’t be me if I would not have something in my mind. So, I’ve been speaking with Sony & Zeiss about something which has been described as ‘a long term relationship’. Unfortunately nothing is agreed on yet and I don’t even know if anything is going to materialize out of these discussions, but there exists an idea. And personally I would like to see another project as I think photography is a thing that needs concepts and frameworks to work. But for now, it is still hanging in the air and if something will happen you will surely hear about it through usual channels (I will likely be using the same domain but with another kind of project).

As I’m now closing my project and a new year is starting there is a lot of hope and inspiration in the air. For all of you I hope you get active with your photography. Try to ride with the waves of activity and don’t let the routines pin you down. Don’t get locked in, instead elevate and leave the flickering screens. See the beauty of the life; realize that nothing is lost and that everything starts from within. There’s a meaning and a story in every path. Whatever you feel and breathe, do it lightly. Don’t let it pass, instead use your eye and capture it into frames of life.

The End

Ps. Phew, I think I got to get myself a beer..