Instagram: how capturing everyday moments changed my life

Krissy Chapala Barker

Krissy Chapala Barker – a corporate solicitor turned full time mum – found herself struggling. “I felt lonely, tired, frustrated, guilty, overwhelmed and most of all just very empty,” she says. So she started posting beautiful photos of her ‘everyday’ on Instagram – one a day, every day, for a year…

Krissy Chapala Barker (@oftheeveryday on Instagram) lives in south west London with her husband and their two children: a five-year-old daughter and a 15-month-old son. She is a full time mum. Prior to the birth of her daughter, she was a corporate solicitor at an American law firm, “which I now realise was excellent training for the days of motherhood to come,” she says. 

When did the project start?
July 2016.

Your Instagram features one iPhone photo a day, taken and posted the same day. What gave you this idea?
When my son was around five months old, I realised I was really struggling to get through each day. I felt lonely, tired, frustrated, guilty, overwhelmed and most of all just very empty. I turned to mindfulness in the hope that it would help to fill me back up and to quieten the overwhelming chaos of negative thoughts. I started to make time to notice the everyday around me. It started to help me tune back into myself. But I struggled with the meditation part. I couldn’t calm the mind to let it recharge. Now I know it takes enormous amount of regular practice, but then I needed something more immediate to help me along.

At the time, I was using Instagram mostly to stay in touch with a few friends and to follow creative adventures of my photographer brother @felixklugman. I was inspired by his captures and one morning took a photo of some air balloons hanging in my daughter’s bedroom. Afterwards, I realised that in those few moments spent over the photo I was so totally absorbed in the process my mind went blank — a creative meditation of sorts. I thought a creative mindfulness project could be the answer to my daily meditation efforts. I added the timeframe to give myself long-term focus. I definitely did not realise at the time what I was getting myself into, but by the time I dawned on me, I was already too far in not to carry on.

Can you explain the ‘mindfulness’ aspect of this project?
A couple of years ago, I became very interested in the concept of neuroplasticity. The idea that with consistent and continuous effort you can rewire your emotions by changing the structure of your brain in meaningful ways is fascinating to me. I then came across mindfulness as a form of mental training for the brain. I have always found routines very appealing, and as the impact of mindfulness on our brains is borne from routine observations and awareness of the everyday reality, I was attracted to it as a concept. I hoped it would provide me with a daily mental routine through a difficult time as I slowed down to notice, photograph, edit and write captions.

@oftheeveryday

Why is it important to post a photo the same day it’s taken?
I wanted it to be a form of my daily mindfulness practice and record. When I started, I numbered the days and didn’t have any captions. Noticing, catching the light and shadows, learning about the editing tools and figuring out how Instagram worked took all my efforts. The daily writing came later, and more recently the poetic musings. As I found and became part of a community, photographing, posting and talking about what was on my mind that same day made the interactions all the more immediate. I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult I made it for myself by having to take and post the photo on the same day until I was well into the project, and by then I was too stubborn to give up. Some days are easier than others and the daily panic is real. But it has also made me look and creatively think a lot more than I otherwise would have done without the daily pressure.

Where does your interest in photography stem from?
I was never really interested in photography as a form of self expression. I enjoyed taking pictures here and there, but always on automatic DSLR setting and mostly of family and friends. Before Instagram came along, I never really understood why people took photos without anyone they know in them. Following my brother’s photography progress on Instagram changed that as at some point I realised that I started to enjoy looking at photos even without anyone I knew being in them.

Have iPhones allowed us to all, potentially, become photographers?
I think iPhones allow each of us to create on the go. As with everything, the more you do something the better you become, and it is much easier to practise and experiment with an iPhone in your pocket than to make a special effort to bring out a camera with you. The image quality and the editing tools are now very advanced and you can create so much without any additional equipment. Of course, this is not to take away from the mastery of professional photography, but I think iPhones have made it a lot easier for us all to engage with our own creativity. 

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Why is Instagram the social platform for sharing this type of project — obviously, there’s the fact that it’s predominantly visual but are there other reasons?
The visual appeal was definitely its main attraction when I started. I have since discovered that aside from inspirational imagery, people join to make friends and share with a like-minded community. I had no idea it had such a nurturing human side when I started my project.

What makes a good photo?
For me, photography, much like art, is something that triggers a subjective emotional response in the onlooker. Of course there are techniques, rules, history and context, but even without being aware of those, a good photograph is one that stirs something in you the moment you see it. It makes you feel things.

How do you decide what to capture, each day?
I started by taking photos of something that caught my eye during the day, that I stopped to look at and appreciate as part of daily goings on. After the first dozen photos I realised that I was naturally drawn to the way the light and shadows play with each other. The light became my main focus after that. Except of course I didn’t factor in the darkness of the autumn and winter months. The light was scarce and on a lot of those winter days I really struggled with ideas. As I started to write my thoughts in the captions, I also began to look for things that complimented or triggered my ponderings that day. I tend to think and overthink a huge amount, so holding on to a single thought, idea or image during the day has become a really calming anchor for my mind. There are definitely days when I panic and struggle, but often photos on days of enforced creativity are some of my favourites.

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In what ways has it changed/enhanced your life?
It has been hugely transformational in so many ways. It is helping me through a difficult stage of being a mother, a stage I did not anticipate and was not equipped to deal with. It has taken me on an insightful journey of self-discovery, as I’ve connected with a nurturing Instagram community, read books together, listened to podcasts and taken wellbeing courses I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. I have made new real friends, which I definitely did not foresee at the start of the project. I have discovered my own creativity, joy of writing and allowed myself to trust my instincts. I have learned about light and shadows, composition, editing tools and what photos I enjoy taking and looking at. I listen, notice, hear, enjoy and feel a whole load more. And of course, I will have made a record of every day of our lives for a year with all the memories to treasure.

Do you have ideas for other creative projects to follow this with?
I am giddy at the thought of it coming to an end as much as I am dreading it. I only have a couple of months left and I know I will definitely miss the daily ritual of looking, pondering and creating. Of course I can do that after the project also, but it certainly gave the process a focus and commitment that otherwise is easy not to make time for as the days gallop by. I will also greatly miss the daily interactions with the Instagram community and the sense of belonging that brings. I am however looking forward to a hiatus from the virtual world. After daily Instagram escapes for a year I have definitely gotten more addicted to it as the project went on. I hope a new creative idea comes to me at some point soon, but for now I am still not sure what it will be.

Top five Instagram accounts to follow?
I am really struggling to choose five as there are so many that inspire me in different ways, but here are a few I enjoy:

@lillalivetandme – I find Niina’s captures of light quite mesmerising.

@thefamilywardrobe – Marion creates most enchanting whimsey with her everyday and when I met her in real life she was just as enchanting in person.

@whitepeak_ruth – I like pondering over the human ways. Ruth’s posts encourage me to do just that.

@monaris – Paola so perfectly pairs her images with words to tell a story, I invariably leave her posts wanting more.

@freyadowson – Her work as a photographer is full of meaning and purpose. I find it incredibly inspiring.

Follow Krissy Chapala Barker – @oftheeveryday – on Instagram