Jeff Buttel
Photographs, etc.

Daily Photos Artist’s Statement

Every day I am responsible for taking 3 photographs. One is taken of me by someone I select, one is taken by me of something that interests me, and one is taken by my wife, Cindy, of anything she wishes, although I have asked her to think about our life together when she chooses what to photograph. When I select a person to take my picture, I give them an opportunity to direct me; to choose the setting and my pose; and I let them know that I am willing to be foolish or outrageous if it suits them.

Cindy, myself, and the “other” photographer are allowed to take as many photos as we wish on a given day, but I am responsible for reviewing the photographs, and selecting three photographs, one by each us. I make my selections based on what I think are the most interesting photographs. Sometimes I do this each day. Sometimes I get to it once a week or so. It’s important to me to get three photos every day, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

I like the act of taking pictures, and have since I was a young teenager. To some extent this reflects Gary Winogrand’s assertion that “I take pictures to see what things look like in pictures”, which in an offbeat way expresses the surprising way in which photographs live between accurately recording what we see, and distorting what we see (as for example when we visit a place we have only seen in photographs and find it almost unrecognizable). The extraordinary becomes ordinary, and the ordinary becomes extraordinary. That transformation is in itself addictive.

As I have aged, I am also more aware my changing body and its slow motion progress towards my demise. Things have speeded up; the seasons and holidays go by in a flash, as do semesters at school; children become grown-ups; my parents are aging rapidly and their friends are dying at an alarming rate. I’d like to hold onto something, even if it’s just a few pictures.

Handing my camera to someone else to take my picture is an adventure. How do I hold myself? Can I remember not to look too smirky? How do I avoid looking the same in every picture? What do I do about photographers who just want to take a competent photograph? Being on the other side of the lens is uncomfortable after all these years of controlling my subjects, by interaction, or by timing, or by framing.

This project is really just a bunch of pictures on its way to becoming a very large bunch. Some of them are really boring. Others are exceptional. They are all about me in some way, but I’m not sure you can know me from looking them. They are of me, but they are about paying attention, connecting with others, creating a visual record, and keeping things interesting.

The nature of this project is interactive. In taking photos I interact with Cindy and others, and it is my intention that the interaction makes the resulting photographs, as a group, more nuanced and complex. I also want the experience of viewing the photographs in this series as interactive and rich for the viewer as I can make it. On this website you can choose to view photos in the collection based on characteristics of time, and photographer, in any order you wish. Your experience in viewing these pictures will vary with what you choose to look at, and in what order.

This website is new. As time goes by I want to add new ways for viewers to select photographs. The goal is to provide an interactive experience for viewers, and I am investigating means for allowing them to add material to the website. Currently the website is limited to photographs. I want to add video, audio, and textual material as well, contributed by myself as well as by viewers.

For me, this site represents my investigation into the nature of taking photographs, by sharing the picture taking experience with others, by giving up control of the outcome, and by switching between photographer and subject. It is also an investigation into what happens over time, and how photographs connect us to our past selves.

My intention is to give viewers an opportunity to look at photographs in ways that they control. If I am the subject of most of the photographs, well, it’s convenient because I’m always available. The subject is really the passing of time, and the website allows visitors look at changes that occur over time in a variety of ways.