A Boston College photography professor has taken a photo of himself every day for the last 27 years.
Prof. Karl Baden strung together the first 24 years, 8 months, and 11 days in a time-lapse video that’s less than two minutes long. Taken between Feb. 23, 1987, and Nov. 3, 2011, Baden calls it the “Every Day” project.
He says he’s only missed one day in 27 years, when he was running late to teach a course in 1991.
“I’ll stop when I’m dead. If I’m dead, I won’t know what will happen with [my project] from there, but the plan is to have an institution acquire it in some form,” Baden told Boston Magazine.
He says the project is an examination of the role of mortality in life and specifically how age changes the body. He also called it a “meta comment” on the idea of obsession, and doing something repetitiously.
“The idea of making and taking photographs has a lot to do with documenting things over time," he said. "Many people have attempted that in terms of looking at cities, and locations, or even one’s own family—kids growing up, that sort of thing. So I felt that it might be interesting to take it a step further.”
When he came up with the idea in the 1970s, a friend told him the concept was “stupid.” So Baden put his idea on the back-burner for a decade before getting started.
“People asked me over the years, why did you start on that date, and to the best of my recollection, I said, ‘well, that was just the day I started it.’ There was nothing special about it, it was random,” he said.
In 1987, he got up one morning and snapped a photo. He’s been taking his photograph in that spot with the same lighting for 27 years. Only the film the has changed because older products he used are no longer made.
“I don’t do anything to change my face intentionally. I don’t grow beards or mustaches, and I keep my hair the same,” he said. “I don’t use any unusual angles, and I don’t use any unusual lenses, or filters, or lighting sources. I try to keep all artistic conceits out of the picture. I try to achieve identical images, but I can’t always, because I’m human, and I make mistakes, and the camera makes mistakes. Those are all accepted as part of the project.”
“It’s photography in its most fundamental form,” he added.