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Tag: photo montages

My Life in 30 Seconds

A friend drew this wonderful pencil sketch of my face as the basis for the birthday gift piñata she made for my party. I’ve found that my birthdays have always been a time of reflection. Last year was particularly intense…

With my father’s recent passing, I’ve been thinking a lot about his legacy, which has led me to think a bit more about my own.

And I’ve been reflecting back on my journey to date. I’m talking way back and trying to take in my whole life. What’s my story so far, and how has it evolved?

One way I’ve gone through this exercise is to review the photos I’ve created and collected over the years. They document many of the moments that have helped to define me.

Create a Photo Montage of your Life
Five years ago, I created a little photo project, which I’ve decided to return to and update. It’s been really useful to jog my memories during this time.

The goal is to select just a very few pics that represent my life so far. And then create a photo montage in a short video. The result is inevitably influenced by the chosen group of pictures, which will vary each time I try this.

Still, these photos do represent one way to look at your life. And I’ve enjoyed this exercise to help regain a broader view.

My Life in 10 Seconds?
How many photos do you select? Well, one option is to squeeze down the number to how many can fit into a defined amount of time. Sure, if you don’t want to restrict yourself, the video might last for hours. But what if you just limit yourself to just a fraction of that?

When I first tried this five years back, I held my video to just 10 seconds, and
I explored a few different photo montages at that length.

Okay… That ended up being a little too fast, as my pictures needed to fly by so quickly you could barely register each image. Some of my viewers complained.

So this time, I’m giving myself the luxury of a whopping 30 seconds.

Barrett’s Birthday Photo Montage
Each birthday is a marker in time and one simple way to collect a group of photos to tell a story. So here are my birthdays…

Though birthday pics can look visually similar across the years (mine certainly do), when strung together, the collection acts as a sort of time machine.

For many of these photos, I tried to represent my age by holding up certain fingers. (I eventually gave that up when I ran out digits!)

Barrett’s Life Photo Montage
Without the guard rails of a specific life event to work with, which photos should you choose to represent your life? Yes, that’s a much harder exercise and one that will take more time to figure out.

I created this draft, but it’s hardly ‘finished.’

This montage offers more visual interest as it shows me out-and-about in the world (as opposed to stuck in front of a birthday cake). But it’s still missing a key ingredient in any life.

You’re Not Alone
Of course, it’s all the people you know. Your family and friends are such as important part of your journey. You need to include them in any photo montage that truly reflects your life.

So, happily, I’ve still got a lot of work to do on that front. Until then, my little photo montage is hardly complete.

What Comes Next?
No, 30 seconds is not a lot of time. And hopefully, it’s not enough for anyone to really work with.

If anything, it’s just a taste or an echo of something much larger… and longer.

But I’ve still found it to be a useful exercise to try to hone in on just a few highlights.

And perhaps, it might help focus me on what my next highlights could be.

Time machines can work in both directions.

My Life in 10 Seconds

We snap birthday pictures to celebrate the passage of time. So why not string together all of those birthday photos to create a visual story of your ongoing life? And then how about creating a fast video sequence that captures it all in 10 seconds? Would that actually work? I decided to find out…

I had this crazy idea a few decades back that I would pose for a photo on every birthday and hold up my fingers to identify each new age I was sporting. And then at some point, I would stitch together all of these pictures into a blistering fast video montage.

Decades of my life to date in 10 seconds. Whoa! How cool is that?!
Well, it’s my birthday. And this year, I’ve decided to give it a go…

Are you ready? Here it is…
Barrett's Birthdays
So, first off… while collecting my photos for this sequence, I realized that I didn’t have access to many of my pictures from before Y2K. The ones I could locate were hidden in buried photo albums and photo boxes… in the attic… in the basement. Many more are still in my father’s apartment in New York City.

And if you think I’ve complained about digital photo organization, my jaw has been hanging open at the disarray of my analog-only photo prints.
(I switched to digital photography in 2000.)

Sure, my mom created some great photo albums when I was a kid, but I haven’t yet digitized most of those pics.
(That’s going to be quite the project!)

All this said, I feel somewhat satisfied that I was able to pull together all of my birthday pictures from 30 years old on and a few from my earlier years.

And I’ve come to the realization…
…that my little visual opus is actually not as interesting as I had anticipated.

Birthdays are for the Moment
Experiencing birthdays can be exhilarating, because they’re your special day. I remember how important those early parties that my parents threw for me felt. Even the birthdays I’ve had as an adult have been lots of fun.

But looking at this montage just doesn’t capture any of that energy.

Perhaps once I get all of the years together… Version 2 may take on a more time-travel-like quality. But the reality is many of my birthdays took place at home. Cozy, but hardly revealing of anything more.

At best, you get you see my aging process. And that I can count on my fingers.
(Actually in some years, I reversed the numbers on my hands.)

This sequence doesn’t tell the story of my life.
At all.

What’s the Background?
I thought a bit and realized that the missing ingredient is context. Each of these pics only represent me at the same moment year after year, but they don’t say much else.

A series of the photos that captures my various ‘adventures’ should reveal multiple chapters in a larger story.
(Where am I? What am I doing?)

So, I turned to my Adobe Lightroom photo library and poked around to pull together a separate set of pictures from my adult years, and this is what I came up with…
Barrett over the years
Well, this certainly provides a lot more visual depth, but which photos to choose can become a mind-boggling process, even if you had organized access to every photo ever taken of you.

And the time it takes to intentionally pick only a few from the hundreds of choices…
To do this thoroughly, it could take someone a whole lot of time to do.
(So, let’s regard this as an early draft.)

But before moving forward to properly complete this multi-decade project, I still felt the design was not complete. There was something else missing.

It’s Not Only About You
Anyone’s life is defined by the people around them. You need to include your own personal community to build out your visual story with any sense of authenticity!

So, I went back again to Lightroom and pulled together a third set of photos that didn’t really focus on me, but on some of the people in my life…
Family and Friends
I know it’s mostly a blur with way too many faces to focus on.

At best this version provides just a feeling. An impression of a life to date. Of the many folks who’ve been on the journey with me at different points in time.
(And this version is absolutely incomplete with lots of missing family and friends)

But I think this third design has the most potential…

Which one do you like the best?
(Perhaps a combination of all three?)

Look Back Before Looking Forward
So clearly, I still have more work to do on my “life in photos” project.

But you might be asking yourself why you should also commit to such a complex archival endeavor.

Well, first off… I think a photo sequence housed in video or animated GIF form (especially if it’s slowed down a bit) can be an amazing way to organize and share your most important pictures.
(My 10-second exercise can easily be adapted into a more leisurely pace.)

If you want to find a way to tell your story, this is absolutely one method to use!
And if you’re not sure about your story, this can be a great process to figure it out.

The truth is anyone’s story is constantly evolving, and a little context is always helpful. And this type of project forces you to evaluate your journey on an ongoing basis.
(Or at least every year)

I think it’s always important as you look forward to take some time to look back.
You might remember a few things… a few people… a few moments.

It can help remind you who you really are.
…Who you’ve always been
And who you will be…

And isn’t that the best birthday present you can give to yourself?

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