Six Thousand Pictures Are Worth How Many Words?

So, I was Stumbling around the Interwebs, as I am wont to do on a slow day, and I happened to find a sight about Jamie Livingston. I’d never heard of him before, though he was actually an alumnus of my alma mater, Bard College. Livingston was given a Polaroid camera back in 1979 when he was still a college student. After a while, he noticed that he was taking about a photo a day, and so he decided to make a routine of it. So far, it’s not such an exciting story, but what’s different about it is that Livingston actually stuck to the routine for the next 18 years, chronicling his life through pictures, even including a photo on the day he died from cancer. Although some pictures have been lost, an amazing 6,697 remain, which his friends have gathered together on a website and also presented in an art exhibit at Bard College.

Looking through the website was a powerful experience. If you have the time, I recommend going to the site and looking through the pictures from start to finish. The first photos are the sort of everyday thing you might expect from a college student: friends, parties, etc. But as the project goes on, the pictures start to tell us more about his life.  We discover that he became a photographer and filmmaker.

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We find out about his interests and hobbies.

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Current events make appearances here and there.

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Some of the pictures are just mundane daily activities, like any of the thousand family photos we all have. Others are interesting photos in their own right, not necessarily telling us anything about Livingston.

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But the most touching images come later, when we start to see evidence of his cancer diagnosis.

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By the time you get to the last picture, it’s almost heart-breaking. You feel like you know this guy, that you know what kind of person he was and what his life was like.

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But even with such a sad ending, the overall feeling I got from looking through the site was that Livingston was someone who lived a full and interesting life. He was obviously surrounded by people who he loved, he was doing work that interested him, and he could find the beauty in the small, quotidian things around him. Even if it was cut short, that seems like a life worth living.

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