Jeff Harris Documenting 13 Years in 4,748 Portraits

Friday, 20 January 2012

In the last few years, I have seen more and more photo-a-day style projects on blogs and personal sites. It has grown to become one of the lastest trends and must-haves. With the advent of Facebook, tumblr, flickr and the ease of documenting yourself and your life no matter how mundane it is, has become an easy and quick dear-diary cure for a fast paced generation.

I must admit, I am a fan of these projects. They are a bit voyueristic. They offer an insight and openess about a persons life, that is difficult to capture in words. The notion of "a picture is worth a thousand words" resonates so highly with these projects, it is difficult to discount their validity in capturing and documenting life as we know it. We are fast becoming a generation, which is so self-obsessed, one wonders, where is this all going? The great thing about these projects though, is that they offer me, as a designer, a greater understanding of people. I dare to call this whole development the next big thing in research based anthropological studies.

I had yet to find a project that inspired, touched and even intrigued me, until today. I introduce to you Toronto-based photographer Jeff Harris, who may very well hold the world record for the longest running picture-a-day project.

He first began his daily photography series in 1999, Harris has just completed his thirteenth year of documenting his very full life. As of December 31, 2011, he has accumulated an astounding 4,748 portraits! Seeing as Facebook, flickr and tumblr were only founded during 2004-2005, one could argue Harris's project has been prophetic and even a founding father of the trend.

Harris has generally worked a 9-5 desk job, whether as a high school teacher or in the publishing industry, but sought to keep things interesting with a photo project. He didn't want the project to reflect a mundane lifestyle, instead he vowed to get out and live life. Initially, according to the artist, the project produced redundant, boring images but Harris became more skilled at the craft with practice. He ended up documenting his adventurous lifestyle as an artist. It challenged him and motivated him to get out there and experience life.

Over the course of the thirteen years it took to build up this massive project, the inspiring artist has experienced countless highlights and endured several medical hardships including a fractured foot from a rock star leap off a pair of giant speakers, being diagnosed with cancer, and the permanent paralyzation of his left leg. After being diagnosed with cancer in November 2008, the resilient photographer took the project with him to doctor appointments, surgery, and radiation treatments. If he didn't take the pictures himself, he'd hand the camera to anyone that would, making sure to give due credit.Even celebrities!

There's a fantastic video produced for TIME Magazine's LightBox that gives wonderful insight on the artist and the origins of his very personal project. You can watch that, below. If you want to see more pictures, his entire collection is available on his website, but we should warn you that there are some very graphic images from Harris' surgeries and hospital visits.

The first photo, a meta portrait made of 3,653 portraits, is available for purchase as a limited edition print directly from the artist's website.
Jeff Harris website:
Source articles: here and here

Jeff Harris: 4,748 Self-Portraits and Counting from We Know Music on Vimeo.


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