Brad Walker and Michael Lease's Yearlong Photography Project
As if photography didn't require enough discipline with all the quietly calculated metrics and endless manipulations of light and speed, two artists self-impose constraints to document their lives at the same time every night. Brad Walker and Michael Lease, photographers and founders of the yearlong SameTime project, are seeing life through a different lens every evening at 7:15 p.m. When the cell-phone alarm sounds, they take a picture--no matter where they are, what they're doing, or whom they're doing it with. They could be urinating, fucking, driving, or sleeping--regardless of the situation, they drag out a camera, take a picture, post it online, and expose their world.
The SameTime project commenced on Dec. 18, 2006. Presented online in an odd, but fitting, linear fashion conveying a sense of time passing at warp speed, the photos are an extraordinary record of two men experiencing the "normal." The site is divided into sections, from the 18th of the month to the 17th of the next month, where you scroll left to right to go through the images. Lease lives in Virginia, Walker in Baltimore, and they communicate every night metaphysically through the joint venture. Couched between real time and virtual space, they capture separate moments that created weird, spontaneous juxtapositions. Patterns, textures, heat, smog, fur, landscapes, bedrooms, soap, maps, and feet become fragments of a larger portrait. SameTime is a place where life's nuances are given a stage.
Walker, a graphic designer at Azzam Jordan and a musician who has released 10 albums as Some Monastery, was once a student of Lease's when he taught photography at Frostburg State University. They talked about collaborating last December, and the SameTime project took shape. Given the project's structure, the camera became a necessary tool to have at the chosen time every day.
Under each photo on the web site a few words accompany the day's image. "The text is important not just to make the relationship between the viewer and ourselves easier, or more personable, but because Brad and I have each made quite a lot of art that hinges on the pairing of text and image," Lease say via e-mail. "I think that photographs condense all the complexities of actual experience into a flat image--one that is recorded within a fraction of a second. Words, when used to describe or sum up a situation, a relationship, an experience, or even an art project, do the same thing. Seen this way, the image is text and the text is image."
The use of captions is used "to give the project a more human touch instead of just seemingly anonymous photos," Walker says, sitting stoically at an outdoor Mount Vernon café. "And to slow the viewer down when scrolling horizontally across the page and become more involved with each photo."
Two parts documentary and one part aesthetic, SameTime demands that the photographers seek out beauty in the quotidian, elicit intrigue amid boredom, and conjure order within chaos. Each photograph reflects the mood and sentiment of the photographer. "If my day is shitty and boring, that's what the photo is going to be. It's appropriate, 'cause that's how our lives are," Walker says. "Honestly, day-to-day life can be a pretty wretched experience, so as a form of emotional, metaphysical, psychological--whatever you want to call it--self-defense, we've decided on the necessary solution of finding the miraculous and the transcendent in the ordinary."
Photography is an art invoking discipline and spontaneity--the SameTime project embodies an ideal balance of both. But how much self-discipline can a chap possess? The project can be a "big burden--every single day we have to do this," Walker says with a smile, but he's not regretful. "We wanted the project to change our day-to-day routine in a sometimes uncomfortable and obtrusive way."
In fact, SameTime was designed to be obtrusive, with the force to change lifestyles and alter perceptions of those who participate. Snippets of Walker's and Lease's lives are not only carved into the internet's memory but also have another, unforeseen impact. "I view memories differently," Walker says. "I look back on the images realizing that without the project I wouldn't have remembered those moments."
What were you experiencing at exactly 7:15 p.m. last Tuesday? If you're like anyone else, you likely can't recall. Walker's admission makes you wonder what you've been missing as you float through life. What have you experienced that will never resurface? The issue is as philosophical as it is psychological, especially for anyone who attempts to document life in whatever form. SameTime is a diary for the two; it's dry, sarcastic, or goofy, whatever its diarists are feeling at the moment. "Whatever happens, happens," Walker says.
Not surprisingly, the SameTime idea is catching on. Guerrilla marketing is the trick of the trade: postcards, linking up blogs, and involving people on a personal level. "People become interested once we take a picture of them," Walker says. And voyeurism is the name of the game: See April 11's sex pic. Requests to be a part of the SameTime project are trickling in. Walker's vision is to get people from all across the world to participate. "We don't want to stop--we're happy it's being recorded," Walker says.
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