“Photo of the Day”: 18 years of Jamie Livingston

Christina Cavalcanti
Web Editor

Jamie Livingston was a New York-based photographer, filmmaker, and circus performer. He was born in New York City on October 25, 1956 and is known for his photography project, or photographic diary, “Photo of the Day”, which consists of 6,697 Polaroid pictures.

Livingston was a member of a circus troupe called The Janus Circus. He also worked as a cinematographer and editor of music videos for MTV, and worked on advertisements with Nike.

Every day since he was given a Polaroid SX-70 camera on March 31, 1979, Livingston took a single picture, until his death on October 25, 1997, his 41st birthday. After his death, his friends Hugh Crawford and Betsy Reid collected all of the pictures they could find and created an exhibition in 2007 in his name at his alma mater, Bard College, the birthplace of this project.

A website for these photographs was also created by Crawford; users can access a given year, search for a specific day, and see the photograph that was captured on that day. The pictures’ contents may be considered significant or meaningful to some, while to others they are just enjoyable to look at.

Livingston’s photographic diary documents everyday life, where he photographs loved ones, street subjects, his experience with a brain tumor as well as his numerous trips into and out of the hospital, his engagement and marriage, and even simple, everyday things such as what was on the TV screen in front of him and the wrappers of his films, thrown away in the bin. Although some photographs have not been found, the collection is far from incomplete as it boasts a wholesome, happy life.

“Jamie can be remembered for precisely the things he himself wanted to capture and remember: daily ordinary joy,” explains Risa Mickenberg, one of the friends who organized the exhibition of his work at Bard College. “Photo of the Day is a work of light, color, laughter, pain, travel, beauty, wonton soup, afternoons, coffee, hanging out, love, life in its entirety. It’s the masterpiece we all create. It’s just that Jamie thought to take its picture.”

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