On April 20, 2006–a Thursday–a friend issued a very minor challenge in the Utata group on the photography sharing site Flickr. She said, “I’m going to go for a walk and take a few photos; join me.” And what the hell, we did. Virtually, of course, since the membership of Utata is scattered all over the globe. We went for a walk, we took a few photos, and we shared some of them in the group.
That was 840 Thursdays ago. Utata has been walking–and shooting a few photos–every Thursday since. That’s just over sixteen years of Thursdays.
Sixteen years of people walking and shooting photos. Sixteen years. Not everybody in the group walks on Thursdays, of course. And of those that do walk, we don’t walk every Thursday. But every Thursday, somebody in the group is walking somewhere and taking photographs.
Of those 840 Thursday Walks, I’ve participated in nearly 300 walks. I’ve walked on other Thursdays, but I haven’t always submitted a photograph to the project.
My favorite thing about the Thursday Walk project is that it’s so flexible. There are no rules, no guidelines. You take a walk, you see something that interests you at that moment, and you photograph it. Subject–doesn’t matter. Aspect ratio–doesn’t matter. Color or b&w–doesn’t matter. DSLR or mirrorless camera or point-and-shoot of Polaroid or cell phone–doesn’t matter.
Walk. See something. Photograph it.
I often combine my Thursday Walk with an errand. A run to the market, say, or a trip to the Post Office. But the flexibility of the project extends way beyond that. A bike ride can also be safely included as a Thursday Walk. A visit to a fair or an amusement park, perfectly legit. A bus ride, close enough. It’s not the actual walking that matters; it’s getting out and looking at stuff.
As far as that goes, since the membership of Utata is global, we’re flexible in terms of time zones. For the purposes of the project, Thursday includes Wednesday morning to Friday night–because somewhere on the globe, it’s Thursday.
So my Thursday Walk images are a hodgepodge of color and b&w, of alleyways and farm fields, of interiors and exteriors, of cityscapes and landscapes, or people and trees, of bike paths and bridges, of mornings and nights, of floods and dry creekbeds, of rainstorms and sunny days, of strangers and friends and selfies, of small towns and deep woods and suburbs and ice cream shops and market shelves and lawn ornaments.
The only thing that unites them is they were taken on the extended Thursday of Utata. And to me, that’s much of the joy.
It’s such a simple thing, and yet it’s completely wonderful–and I mean wonderful in the old sense of the term. It leaves me full of wonder. There’s no logical reason for people all over the world to do this–and yet they’ve continued to do it for more than sixteen years. I should say we have continued to do it for more than sixteen years.
I have to stress the we because I stepped away from the group for a while. For a couple of years, in fact. I’d been the managing editor of Utata for most of its existence, and I ran some of the group projects–until I became burned out. Then I stepped back a bit and let others step up. Then I stepped away almost completely.
But now I’m beginning to miss the group again. I miss the people and I miss the interaction and I miss walking on Thursdays. I can’t say I’ll be actively engaged with the group again, because I probably won’t. Certainly not like I used to be. But spending time with smart, creative people–even virtually–is a treat.
However, here’s the thing: what I need to do, if I want to engage with that group again, is make photography part of my ordinary day again. I have to make it habitual behavior. I have to start thinking about it again. Which is why I’m writing this. If I say it in public, I’m more likely to follow through.