Whilst music is our main focal point here at Soundscape, that doesn’t mean that it’s all we cover – and when one of our contributors Ryan announced that he’d be releasing a book documenting his 365-day photo challenge (entitled The Danbox Memoirs), we simply had to find out more. Check out the interview below to find out more about the journey of him and Danbox.
So The Danbox Memoirs is a completed 365-day photo challenge. Where did the initial idea to do the photo challenge come from?
The idea came from a good friend of mine who is also a photographer (Kaila Moore of Full Circle Photography). She was working on her own 365 Day project and simply mentioned that I should try it. I had no idea what I was going to shoot, but the pull towards this challenge was undeniable and impossible to resist.
And what about Danbox – where did the idea for him come from?
For me, story is everything. It would not be enough to just shoot random images all year with no real context to hold them all together. I wanted to have a purpose for my work, and I honestly struggled for weeks trying to connect with an idea that I could emotionally commit to…and then I met Danbox, and it became clear that this was the missing piece of the puzzle. This little box man looked so vulnerable, and also, so strong in his own way; it just made sense to create a diary of sorts, and in the company of this very expressive figure.
Some 365-day photo challenges come with a prompt for each day. Did you use a list or reference to choose the photos to take, or did you just come up with the images on the fly?
It is important to mention that the year I did this project was, easily, one of the most difficult years of my life, and my emotions were in constant battle with each other. As a project that would document my thoughts as I moved through those difficult times, it was almost impossible to plan photos ahead of time. If I woke up feeling tired, unmotivated, or perhaps the opposite, then that would become the basis for the photo I would take. Some days I would be pacing for an hour trying to come up with an image, with only an hour left in the day to complete the image, and somehow an image would always present itself. Thankfully, I managed to succeed every day with a new photo and some writing to go along with it.
So which photo out of the 365 is your favourite?
Oh, now that is not an easy question to answer. The truth is, I love most of them (others are being edited for the book as we speak), and before someone says “Well that dilutes the integrity of the 365 Day project, just know that I have displayed the original online for years now, and it is time for the “Directors Cut” to get published.
The first photo that I would choose as one my favourites would be “Day 288—I Promise Not To Forget”, this photo was taken on Vancouver Island, in Victoria, British Columbia, which happens to be my favourite place on this planet. The image is a farewell to my brother who passed away a few days prior to this photo being taken. He lived on the island, and we always enjoyed our talks along the ocean shore when I came to visit him and the rest of my family. The writing of this entry almost broke me, but it had to be done, and it had to be honest in such a way that those who have lost someone would understand my loss, and the responsibility that follows having to live without someone you had planned on knowing your whole life.
The next photo that I would choose as one of my favourites is actually (and this is going to no doubt come off as a cynical joke, but it isn’t) “Day 8—Melancholy And The Infinite Gift”. This image has Danbox holding a sign that says “Smile, you’re alive” (see what I meant by coming off as a bit wrong in association with the previous image? Trust me, my brother would approve of how funny this looks as well). The point is, life is going to be hard, and it is going to take away some people and things that you love, it is going to constantly fall through your hands like the sands of an hourglass, but if you can draw a single breath, then that is all you need to know that you are alive; and I do believe that one should be grateful for as many moments as they can, even some of the more difficult ones; it all adds up to this humbling knowledge that it took a universe to create each and every one of us.
Did you ever run into any problems whilst documenting the journey of Danbox? Did you have to change anything or did it all go mainly to plan?
It’s life, does anything ever go as planned? Haha.
I am not a fan of phone cameras. I think that it will always be important to keep a file large enough to print as big as you want, and to capture a moment in the best resolution as you can…so when I forgot to charge the battery on my camera, I of course, didn’t see this mistake until about 10:30pm on a cloudy night with no light around anywhere close; I was lost in the streets of the dark city, and all I had was my phone to get the photo. If you know anything about phones and their terrible lack of ability to deal with low light, then you know my frustration in that moment. Other things that went wrong were simply the sheer amount of drama that can be thrown your way in a day, and how it can eat up your free time in such an incredible way that what you want to do, or need to do, just keeps getting pushed farther away. Those were the days where Time The Thief was fully against me.
If you could go back and change anything, or do anything differently, what would you do?
I would say, perhaps, to drink less, haha. Seriously, that was an incredible year of testing out my intestinal fortitude. Not every day of shooting can be remembered, but I do know that there were long nights of listening to TOOL, Stone Temple Pilots, City And Colour, and Coheed And Cambria, accompanied by a few more drinks than initially intended; but hey, the creative process plays by its own rules doesn’t it?
What made you decide to turn this into a book? Was this something you’d planned to do from the start, or was it more of a retroactive idea that came to you after completing the challenge?
Definitely a response to the project after it was complete. I knew, at different times throughout the year, that this was truly becoming a journey worth sharing. Halfway through the year I could see the trail of images and emotionally charged writing that I was leaving behind me, and I was starting to formulate an idea where all this was going. By the end of the project I found myself emotionally attached to the Danbox figure, in such a way that it was hard not shooting with him the next day to be honest. The Danbox Memoirs book feels like the proper response to honour everyone that was involved in the project along the way. Some very important people close to my heart shared this journey with me, and they deserve to see this book finished as well. I know my brother would want to see this done, he loved the Danbox project and supported it fully, and for that reason alone I knew I would complete this and publish it.
Was it difficult to make the idea of a book become a reality?
First off, to create 365 images, every day, without fail, feels like a marathon at times. Between trying to say something fresh and interesting, and also contending with the desires of your own mind, that sometimes include wanting to walk away, or take a break…but you can’t, because when you are in, you are fully in; it can be a rough ride to say the least. I finished the book a while back, but it needed to be edited, of course being a difficult year, this book sat around like some sort of Pandora’s Box, and I didn’t look forward to opening it up and going back to that emotional space; but it wasn’t in the cards to leave it in obscurity, The Danbox Memoirs simply means too much to me. Pouring myself a glass of wine (a socially acceptable amount, haha), I finally opened the box and dove back into that history of mine, and it wasn’t half the monster I made it out to be; it was obvious that I truly learned from the lessons found within the book, that this journey was a worthy one.
I now have the book in the hands of a great friend who is editing it with a new set of eyes (I simply cannot make another edit after the one I just did, I know what I am trying to say, but the question is, will others understand as well?), my friend is making sure others do.
I am going over all the photos as we speak, with the intent to have them finished around the time that the final edit of the book is finished, after that I will put the final book together and release it to the public. The photos are as important as the writing, so they will get their own page next to the writing. From how it looks at the moment, this book will be split into four separate books, as one book on its own would be far too uncomfortable to read, or place on your coffee table.
So when can we expect the book – or rather books – to be released?
I am working hard to have it completed later this year. I will have all my ducks in a row, so to speak, but the question comes down to whether I choose to chase down a publication or self-publish. I am leaning towards self-publishing on this one as I don’t want to hold this project back from the public any longer, as I am just as excited as Danbox’s fans are to finally have this journey in book and ebook format.
And looking to the future – would you ever consider making a sequel or is this definitely a stand-alone piece?
That is all up to Danbox. 😀