Photographer Chronicles 20 Years of His Life, Until the Day He Dies

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Had he lived, Jamie Livingston would have beamed a picture perfect smile seeing how his collection of more than 6000 Polaroid photos — one taken for each day of his life, beginning in March 1979 — has turned into an international sensation.

The discovery of the website containing the collection of Polaroids shot and collected over a twenty year period is as intriguing as the collection itself. Chris Higgins at Mental Floss stumbled upon a website full of seemingly bland photographs that were dated for each day across twenty years, beginning in March of 1979 and ending in October 1997. Since the website was still in beta mode, he had no way of knowing who the photographs belonged to or what the collection signified. After some Google trickery, Chris finally managed to reveal the identity of the photographer and the story of his collection.

James Livingstone, a New York based cinematographer had indeed taken a Polaroid for each day of his life, probably meaning to build a collection. Tragically, he died of cancer in October 1997, and the collection was interrupted. His friends Hugh Crawford and Betsy Reid were in the process of setting up the collection on the website that Chris chanced upon.

The collection, entitled PHOTO OF THE DAY: 1979-1997, 6,697 Polaroids and dated in sequence, was displayed at the Bertelsmann Campus Center at Bard College, the place where James began his Polaroid-taking odyssey. The entire collection spanned an entire 70 x 120 feet wall.

Some of the pictures, captionless and, in these days of digital imagery, in quaintly poor resolution, are breathtakingly poignant. Like the shot of the engagement ring lying in its box, followed shortly after by a picture of the happy couple, or the stitches in his head, where we begin to see his losing grip on life.

  1. @Allison: Yeah, it’s certainly skirting the edge of relevance to travel.

    However, I’ve come to realize that “travel” is less about airline industry news, how to find cheap flights to Europe, and what crazy weapon got through airport security today … and more about culture, people, and how we all live our lives and interact.

    Blogs – particularly travel blogs – have really boomed in the past couple of years with people looking to chronicle their personal lives and day-to-day experiences. And I think this particular story relates to that well.

  2. Amazing find – thankyou. It’s an evocative insight into the photographer’s travels … through life.

    I can’t remember the last piece of travel writing I read/observed as mesmerising as that collection of photos.

  3. Peru, Russia, England, France Amsterdam, Belgium, Turkey, Afghanistan, Brazil, New Jersey, how much more travel do you need in those photos?

    BTW, the print was 7 x 120 feet , not 70 x 120

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