Capturing Life from Dawn to Dusk

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Dawn to Dusk photos

Once a year, a small army of photojournalism majors swarms over Athens County, Ohio, taking photos of everyday life from sunup to sundown.

It’s called the Dawn to Dusk project.

Documenting a whole day in a county sounds like a big, complicated undertaking. But break it down, and you’ve got a project doable for just about anyone.

In fact, you can do this with only as many people as you can count on your hand (even if you don’t have extranumery digits).

Read on for our tips on how to do your own Dawn to Dusk project: where to shoot, who to involve, and how to show off all your hard work.

Capturing Life from Dawn to Dusk

Photo credits: Sam Saccone, Alex Snyder, and Rachel O’Hara.

The Original Project

logger at workStudents from Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication do this project every fall, focusing on an overarching theme such as “Going Green.” This year’s subjects ranged from loggers and deer hunters to organic bakeries and yoga studios.

Each photographer chooses a subject to photograph somewhere in the county. They take photos throughout the day, then divide their results into five sections: dawn to 9:00am, 9:00am to 12:00pm, and so on.

After everything’s shot, the group chooses the very best photos and displays them on the Dawn to Dusk website.

Step 1: Scale It Down

lettuce being harvestedSince the Dawn to Dusk project had more than sixty photographers involved this autumn, they were able to cover an entire county in one day.

Most of us don’t know sixty other photographers, but you could do this project on your own with as few as five people (one for each three-hour period of the day).

Choose a smaller area, like a neighborhood or a small town, so you can cover what’s happening without traveling too far or needing too many people on the ground.

Step 2: Find Photographers & Locations

garbage menA mix of different photo styles, perspectives and subjects is key.

This is a great project for classes and photo clubs to try. Round up as many photographers as you can to do this project with you.

If you can only find five photographers, have everyone choose two different subjects and shoot them during two different time periods so you’ll end up with ten subjects total.

When choosing a place to shoot this project, pick an interesting neighborhood, small town, or even a large park or farm. The best places are ones where activity starts stirring early in the morning and continues into the evening.

Look for a place that has a contrasting, wide-ranging variety of subjects to cover during the day. Contrast noisy people with quiet places, or busy schedules with still moments.

Talk as a group beforehand about where, what, and when everybody plans to shoot so you can be sure of getting a good mix of subjects without overlapping.

Step 3: Edit and Show Off

pointing handAt the end of the day (or the day after if you’re tired) have everyone choose their best shots, and go over them together. Pin prints up on the wall so you can look at everyone’s photos at once.

Choose which photos you want to include in the final project. Final selections can be decided by voting, discussion, or bare-knuckle boxing matches between the photographers (definitely recommended).

There are plenty of ways to display the results of your blood, sweat, and tears. You can make it as simple as a group on Flickr or an online slideshow. Or you can go fancy and make a book or a magazine.

You could even get a local coffee shop or art gallery to put your photos up as an exhibit. Heck, see if you can get your favorite coffee shop to sponsor you; we bet they’d love the idea of their coffee fueling people from dawn to dusk.

More Inspiration

Photo credits: Chad Bartlett, Julia Dose, Maisie Crow, and Carrie Pratt.