Can you imagine the kind of raised-eyebrow, side-eye you’d give someone who told you they were going to climb a mountain in stilettos or bathe in baked beans? I got that thrown at me more than once when I mentioned I was taking part in The Car Project: a collaboration between two Aussies and a Kiwi documenting life in the car.
One photo a week of our time spent in the car, that’s 150 pictures of car life. Yep, side-eye, closely followed by something about how they’d spent a butt load of time in their car, messy and busy, but NOTHING ever happened there.
We came to this project at the end of 2016 in an enthusiastic fit of let’s-do-something-amazing-for-the-new-year. After varying experiences with the challenges of daily shooting, we settled on a p52 (a photo per week) and wanted a theme to push us creatively and technically.
(and because no one needs more choices to make in their daily life)
As parents we spend a lot of time in the car.
School runs, appointments, shops, sports taxi.
We tend to think of the car as a means to get places, rather than a place itself.
So, when Lauren’s husband suggested the backseat of the car (hey, get your mind out of the gutter) we thought, “Maybe he’s onto something.”
It’s a changing room, a dining room, a confessional and a comedy stage. But we never really see it.
The thought of having to make photos, even find anything vaguely interesting to make a photo of in this one spot every week for a year seemed like a tough challenge.
So, the Car Project was born.
Over here in Australia, the new year is in the middle of the summer holidays, so the first few weeks of our project were full of inspiration – sun, beach trips and sandy towels. We felt pretty pleased with this theme, and, just quietly our progress.
A few more weeks in and we were back to school, work and kindy. That was all good too, capturing the uniforms, the school bags and the (covert) after-school snacks.
Then, we got up to 40 or 50 school runs, each one the same, the days got shorter, and greyer. We had to find time for the weekly shop and getting fuel, add in a few sports games, the practices, find that one school shoe which is always missing and why is there a lego man head on the floor?
Making an engaging picture fell somewhere near the bottom of the list.
That’s when the project really got interesting.
That’s also when we started to see:
We started to see not every school run was the same. There was homework to share, news to tell, bloody knees, new friends.
We started to see the physical space differently. A window as a frame, or an artwork to shoot through. Noticing a reflection in a window or a mirror, that we’d seen a thousand times, for the first time.
Moving ourselves and shooting into the car, killing it with yoga moves and taking a birds eye view or from low down close to the ground.
We started to see the way the light moved and fell in the car.
We started to see our children.
None of us had expected that staying in this little space and photographing would change the way we looked at our family and daily life. Turning around to hurry someone to get their seatbelt on and noticing the way the other child was gazing out the window with dreamy eyes and the softest slice of light falling on the curve of their cheek. It was like a squeeze on the heart – were they always so beautiful?
Am I ever going to turn around and see that again?
The Car Project changed from a chore into something more like a treasure hunt.
Those bony knees and shins covered in dirt, how long will that last? The way the Lego figures are lined up carefully on the dashboard before school, maybe that will never happen again. The “I love mama note” falling asleep on the way home.
All the tiny moments in the car: gather them up.
Being part of a wee group and seeing each other’s photos inspired us to try new things. This was a personal project, so it didn’t have to look any particular way. We could stick with purely documentary or create something more artistic, less literal.
Seeing each other’s work sparked conversations about differences in our lives. Sitting on the car hood? Where is that farm? Whose dog is that?
We challenged one another to photograph our weekly shopping trip and to “think outside the box.” Our one thread of connection – this project – spread and strengthened when we found the parallels in our lives. Without intending to, we’d end up with matching photos: sports socks, grubby knees, beaches, cuddling dogs, grumpy faces, waiting for fish & chips.
The side-eye looks we were getting at the start of the project have turned into wide eyed looks of amazement at our creative and interesting photos of such an everyday topic. At the end of the project, we sat back and saw how much we’d grown as photographers. We wanted to inspire others to have the same experience.
This year we invited other photographers to join us on the Couch Project 2018: one photo a month of life on your couch.
We have photographers from New Zealand, Australia, the US, and Holland joining us so far, ranging from beginners to well established pros. We hope that over the course of 2018 we can offer each other encouragement, creative ideas, technical tips and maybe some laughs too.
Come join us on the couch for a while and maybe you’ll find something new in your everyday.
Auckland, New Zealand
Writing by Claire Humphries.
Photography by Claire Humphries, Francisca Jorgensen and Lauren McAdam.
Visit The Couch Project on Instagram: @couchproject18
About Claire Humphries: I’m an Auckland Family Documentary Photographer. My son used to sneak into our bed every night. He’d climb up and then lie on my chest with his face pressed on mine to use my face as his pillow. Then, he climbed in and just slept quietly beside me. Then, one night he didn’t come in at all. A photo of our sweaty faces smooshed together wouldn’t mean much to anyone else, but to me, it would be priceless. That’s the kind of memories I want to capture for families.
About Francisca Jorgensen: I’m a Melbourne based family lifestyle photographer, in love with natural light. I’ve always loved the power that an image can have, and how they can take you to different places and time. One of my main goals as a photographer is to capture true emotions, and to tell stories through my work.
About Lauren McAdam: I’m a natural light family photographer living in Geelong, Victoria, inspired by daily life and capturing details of my own family’s everyday moments. It’s important to me to give this to my clients as well. I want them to have beautiful photos that they can pass down the generations, images that tell the real story of who they were at that time in their lives.