He didn't know it yet, but 18 years after starting this photo project this artist would capture his own death.
When Jamie Livingstone, a native New Yorker and college student at Bard College, obtained a Polaroid SX-70, he never thought it would became a central part of his daily life. After having the camera for awhile, he realized that he was taking about one photo per day and decided to stick with the habit. His project went on for so long that he knew he would have to continue taking photos until production of Polaroid film stopped or he died; no one expected the latter to happen.
Livingstone began his project in March of 1979 while he was a senior in college. His photos contain a range of subjects, from selfies to shots of friends to documenting his life as a creative. The series opens up with a photo of two women, one that is presumed to be his then-girlfriend, and ends with a tragic shot of him on his deathbed. Livingstone’s close friend, Hugh Crawford, said of the artist and his style,
“There are some people who have flashes of brilliance and do things in a huge rush or creative bursts but he was more of a steady, keeps-at-it kind of guy and he did amazing stuff. Part of the appeal of the site is that Jamie wasn’t this amazing-looking guy. He led an incredible life, but there’s an everyman quality to the photographs.”
The artist documented his life but he also inadvertently documented his death. Several months before his very last photo, evidence of his illness begins to emerge with photos of him in bed and eventually in the hospital. It becomes clear that Livingstone has been diagnosed with cancer and has undergone brain surgery, which staves off the cancer for some time before he is back in the hospital bed. These last photos are marked by darkness and IVs and his bald head, but there is a glimmer of beauty amongst them as he captures a photo of an engagement ring in its box and his wedding a few days later. Sadly, he died less than three weeks after his wedding date.
Before his death, Crawford promised Livingstone that he would take care of the photo collection and preserve it. Though some of the photos have been lost, which is understandable given the immense life changes that Livingstone went through and how hard it must be to keep track of thousands of photos, all 6,697 remaining Polaroids were digitally scanned and put online for the world to see. The collection was also displayed at Bard College, Livingstone’s alma mater, starting the day of what would have been his 50th birthday.
The collection is more than just something Livingstone could look back at to remember some of his most cherished moments; it was a project that allowed him to cherish the moments as they occurred. Because he was snapping photos everyday and constantly looking for his daily inspiration, moments that might seem average were turned into art and kept for an eternity.
You can see all of the photos by clicking here. Scroll through some of the photos below to catch glimpses of Livingstone’s life.
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