The 24 Hour Project is a global photography event that’s happened every year since 2012. Photographers post a photo of their city every hour for 24 hours. It’s always in support of a charity – this year Lesvos Solidarity. Every year’s been bigger than the last. This year was my first. A couple of month’s ago I was debating spending one of my five bookable days off to take part. In the end Yuka convinced me it was a good idea – likely since I’d talked about it a bit too much. I’m glad I did.
The project is meant to be 24 hours / 24 photos. I managed 19 hours / 19 photos (You can see all 19 at the bottom of this post). When I went to bed an hour before the project was supposed to start I felt a little guilty. When I got home afterwards, I knew I’d made the right choice. When I requested the Saturday off work to take part I hadn’t considered that 00:00 on a Saturday is around 3 hours after I finish work on Friday. That Friday, I’d had a 9:30am doctor’s appointment too. I opted for the first train into Shinjuku as my starting point. Waking up at 4:30, grabbing the biggest coffee from the convenience store on the way down to the station, and finally testing my camera’s wifi functionality and Snapseed (both fantastic) on the train – midnight seemed a long long way away.
My main concern before I started was that 24 (or 19) good photos in a day is impossible. In the first couple of hours I had to remind myself that the quality of the photography isn’t really the point. Sure, checking the hashtags throughout the day there were some phenomenal shots showing up. But even cooler was the amount of photos. The amount of people who wanted to be a part of it. People who wanted to share their lives and passions while doing something for a good cause. Having decided not to really worry about the quality of my photos throughout the day – not why I was doing it – I’d hoped that I’d be able to spend a little less time shooting than I normally would in an hour and could pop into a few shops and cafes as the day went on. It didn’t work out that way. A couple of hours in I had to hustle to get a photo ready in time. Something that happened two or three more times throughout the day. I never stopped enjoying myself though. Even seeing the minute hand creep closer to the hour with nothing to post I was having fun.
I started in Tsukiji, where I got a couple of photos I liked and a curry rice breakfast I absolutely loved, before heading back into Shinjuku and needing to get the first of those last minute photos. I came up out of the Metro and realised I was right next to the Shrine I’d spent the afternoon at the day of my grandad’s funeral my first year here. I took a couple of pictures – none of them great – and headed along to the covered walkway leading into Shinjuku station to upload. I ended up with a pretty average photo, but it was important to me. The point of the day is to share your city. I’ve been to a lot of shrines and temples in Tokyo. They’re everywhere. That shrine though was the first one I ever had any emotional connection to. Even now there are only two I feel have been part of my life in Tokyo. I was quite glad it made its way into my project photos.
For the next few 10 hours or so I walked and rode the train around the city, taking photos, stopping for coffee, checking out photos from other participants, listening to a lot of The Film Reroll Podcast, drinking more coffee, walking more (24.27km according to Fitbit), riding more trains, posting, drinking coffee, at one point ending up at a sports car event, pushing my luck by taking some photos with the flash on, drinking more coffee. I felt good. I went to a couple of places I love. I went to a couple of places I’d never been to before. The whole event, the 24 hours (most people) had committed felt like a celebration of humanity and photography. Even walking around by myself in the rain I was content. A big part of that contentment was that day off I spent. I love teaching English and I was gutted when I learnt that I was going to miss of my student’s final classes. It was also the first day of the academic year, meaning I didn’t get to start the new books with my Saturday kids. But I don’t think anyone should ever be so committed to a job that they can’t take a day to pursue something else they love. Remembering that I can take the day off from work, pick up my camera, and spend 24 (or 19…) hours to be a part of something so fun was important.
Around 8:30pm I met Yuka from work and we went to an incredible coriander restaurant in Kyodo. The food, company, general atmosphere of the place (and maybe the two beers I drank) helped stave off the tiredness and see me through. I posted Yuka’s picture for 9pm. She agreed to hang out with me until the end the of the night – two more hours / two more photos – and I pushed on. Grabbing a few photos in Kyodo and deciding to end with a selfie back home if we saw nothing on the way, we got the train. Across from us was a man so tired he was barely able to stay upright. He became the last photo of my project. A mirror of the first.
I’m still not sure what I loved so much about the day. That I could do it. That I got to spend 18 hours with my camera in my hand. That I finished. That there were thousands of other people in hundreds of other cities doing it too. That at the end of the day I had dinner with Yuka, came home, and watched TV with her. The people I spoke to. The photos I took. The photos I saw. I don’t know. I love a challenge. I love photography. I love Tokyo. I love my life. Thanks, 24 Hour Project.
Tokyo, April 2017