The Days of His Life
AS a senior at Bard College in 1979, Jamie Livingston acquired a Polaroid camera. After a few weeks, he noticed that he was taking about one picture a day, and shortly thereafter he decided to continue doing so.
The project, which quickly evolved into something of an obsession, began with a snapshot of Mindy Goldstein, Mr. Livingston’s girlfriend at the time, along with another friend, both of them smiling at something outside the frame. It ended 18 years and more than 6,000 photos later with a self-portrait of the photographer on his deathbed on his 41st birthday.
The narrative that unfolds between those two images tells the story not only of the friendships Mr. Livingston forged over the years but also the evolution of a city. It charts New York’s progression from an era of urban decay and fiscal crisis to a place characterized by the economic recovery that had arrived by the time of Mr. Livingston’s death, of melanoma, in 1997. This was especially true downtown, where he lived for much of the period covered in the photographs.
Before Mr. Livingston died, his friends Hugh Crawford and Betsy Reid promised they would not let the project die with him. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of their friend’s death, they digitally photographed the Polaroids and reproduced them for an exhibition at Bard, in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Mr. Crawford also loaded the images onto a Web site (photooftheday.hughcrawford.com) so they could be experienced in their entirety.
As the cityscape has changed, many of the pictures have accrued meaning. “They often don’t mean anything by themselves,” Mr. Crawford said. “But when you put them all together, they take on a life of their own.”
Ms. Reid, who met Mr. Livingston in 1985, cited other benefits of the collection. “When I look at a picture that I was involved in or know about,” she said, “you’re just sent right back in time and you just remember everything about that day.”