About My Final Photo

Some of you are familiar with my years-long project, “My Final Photo – If I died in my sleep, this was it.”

Started after my early retirement from The Associated Press, the project is to publish a photo every day chronicling my photography.

It began after my annual checkup on November 15, 2004, as I drove from the doctor’s office having been told I was in great shape except for the extra body weight around my middle.

Stopping at the traffic signal I pondered my future and the scope of what paths my new freedom from reporting to work every day would take me. I joked to myself as the light changed that with my luck I’d probably have some sort of catastrophe strike me such as the dump truck that ran the traffic signal as I pulled into the intersection.

Great, I thought. Just my luck! I retire, have every minute of every day to shoot the things I always wanted to do and end up in the grave after some stupid crash. That would be my retirement legacy.

“Poor Gary. He just retired and was killed by an empty dump truck just a mile from his house. I wonder what he’d done since retiring? What had he been shooting? What was his last photo?”

Listening to the voices of my friends in my head I resolved to make sure no one had to ever ask what I’d been doing.

I stopped on the way home and shot my first My Final Photo of the construction of a bridge leading to my house. Every day since then I’ve published a photo. A photo taken that day. 

They cover a wide spectrum of styles and intent. Portraits, news, features, scenics,  a little bit of everything. Some are taken toward the end of the day when I’m tired and not sure why I’m continuing to shoot the project. Even more are taken at sunrise when I’m eager to continue the exploration.

What’s most exciting about the project is that it forces me to always be thinking and questioning myself about photography. Each night I go over my notes and calendar to see what’s possible for the next day. I check the weather report to see if a photo I’d hoped for might be possible. What techniques do I need to learn better? What have I done before that I can do better? What’s missing in my skill set? Who have I wanted to shoot but haven’t been able to?

Every day is filled with questions and searches. Questions about my work, my success, and my failures. About how to make it better.

Today’s photo is number 5,000. I’d spent the day doing work other than photography and knew that somewhere down the line I’d probably travel over to Hoover Reservoir for a weather-related photo. It was wet and cloudy most of the day and people weren’t outside.

As I cleared my driveway the weather began to break with the rain clouds moving east and the sun finally glaring in the hot August sky. The rainbow was difficult to miss. It traveled across the entire eastern horizon heavily contrasted against trailing storm clouds.

All I needed was a foreground object for depth and emotional relationship. I traveled the length of Hoover as rapidly as I could fearing being stopped by the police and having an accident.

I found my foreground several blocks from the reservoir at a family’s baseball pickup game. I’m sure they wondered who is the crazy man with cameras running across the field toward our children. However, no one questioned me as I settled into a kneeling position behind the batter with the rainbow as a background.

Photo number 5,000 was now in my camera. A project had evolved into a large body of work that represented my collective knowledge of photography, my discovery of new ideas and techniques, and an increased appreciation for keeping myself active after having left the work that kept me constantly in motion for most of my life.

Today the project continues. I’ve no great idea for what today’s photo will be although I do have several possibilities. There are some things I still don’t do very well and they challenge me.


Editor’s Note: I wrote this several years ago but it still holds true. Now there are more than 6,500 photos in the My Final Photo collection. More than 18 years of a photo a day.

I have made arrangements to transfer the My Final Photo archive, both published and unpublished, to the Westerville History Museum so it can become a permanent part of the record of Westerville at the beginning of the 21st century.

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A Photo A Day since November 15, 2004.


Former newspaper & Associated Press photographer. Daily photos at https://myfinalphoto.com