A snap a day: Q&A with Woody Campbell

Every day since 16 October 2009, Woody Campbell has taken a photograph and posted it online - a practice he intends to continue for the rest of his life. Here, we chat with the photographer about his favourite cameras and what keeps him motivated.

 

I'm sure this is the first question everyone asks, but why did you decide to start taking a photograph every single day?

I've always taken a lot of photographs, and photography has always been a passion - I'm kind of compulsive with it. I found that in 2007 and 2008 alone, I accumulated between 15,000 and 20,000 images. Working at that pace poses a couple of problems, so it seemed to me the best thing to do was systemise it. Taking a photograph every day provides a context and it also provides a challenge. The rule I've made for myself is that I can't ever miss a day, and I've followed that rule ever since I started seven years ago. It means I have a camera in my hand in sickness and in health - hangovers are no excuse!

 

How do people react when you tell them about this project?

They're mostly interested. It's fascinating to me because I've got a Twitter account and, without a lot of promotion, I'm up to 118,000 followers - so that's my main public, if you will. I feel I'm getting better exposure, feedback and interaction through Twitter than if I were displayed at an obscure Chelsea gallery. Twitter is raw and the entire web is there - it's a direct connection to the audience.

 

 

Does it take a lot of time out of your day?

Again, I'm quite disciplined about it. I fit it around a daily schedule if I need to. I tend to be an early riser and try to get the editing, blog work and tweeting done before breakfast. However, it's not in my nature to be disciplined. This project has taken some very special reprogramming of myself. When I started, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! 

 

Are there days when you feel unmotivated?

Of course. I may wake up in the morning and think, 'I'm bored of this, I don't want to shoot today', but I have to pick up the camera, make sure the battery is alive and head out the door and do something. As I say on my website, I'm committed to doing this for the rest of my life.

 

Is staying disciplined the biggest challenge?

No, because most days I'm quite excited by the project. For me, the biggest challenge is really pushing myself to stay fresh and relevant.

 

Why do you tend to shoot in black and white?

I started with black-and-white film and shot it for as long as I shot on film. I converted to digital not long after 2000 and was thrilled when the Leica digital M became available. I've owned them consistently ever since. I sometimes shoot in colour but, when I hold the work side by side, my black-and-white work is always better. There's some nostalgia for the 1950s in my work, and I have that consciously in mind. Think of some of the iconic portraits from the 1950s and 60s - there's a very distinctive look that monochrome is quite capable of, and that's the look I'm going for.

 

 

When were you first introduced to Leica?

I'm a long-time Leica shooter - my first was an M3 that I bought around 1975. I had a wonderful run with it and I actually still own a dual range Summicron. I use a lot of legacy lenses and some lenses that date back to the 1930s.

 

What do you like about using Leicas?

My primary camera right now is a Monochrom M, and the wonderful thing about it is the sensational files it produces. The files are very malleable - you can find infinite shadow details. I shoot mostly with the 50mm and the 24mm Summilux, which I use daily. It's the only camera I carry, apart from my iPhone.

 

You mentioned staying fresh and relevant. Given the fact you live in New York and photograph the city quite frequently, do you find it difficult to find a new angle?

New York is a problem - I mean, let's think about what Berenice Abbott didn't do! However, a lot of New York today didn't exist when she was working. I've actually gone out and re-shot Berenice Abbott's photographs just to understand where she was and what the lighting was like. It's a useful exercise.

 

Which other photographers do you admire?

I actually tend to look backwards a bit, so the key people would be Robert Adams, Elliott Erwitt, Lee Friedlander, and the late Luigi Ghirri, who worked in colour primarily and did extraordinary things. There's also Todd Webb, Frank Gohlke and Josef Sudek, whose images of crumpled paper are fabulous and something to think about on a day when the weather is too bad to go out and you've exhausted all your ideas.

 

Images © Woody Campbell, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 

woodycampbell.com