The gratitude project is an ongoing effort to capture photographic images of people as they ponder their personal experience of gratitude. The idea is not new. Photographers have been attempting to capture human emotion since the day images could be transferred from light and particles onto film and printed to paper.
So why pursue the project? At the very least, it is to encourage better living through gratitude. However, my greatest hope is that the project will unite people with different backgrounds through a shared emotion or trait. We live in a time where our smallest differences divide us from one another. Why not allow our smallest sameness to bind us together? The gratitude project is a community-building project.
I am seeking individuals or groups of individuals that share a common bond to participate in the gratitude project. Will you or your group participate? Please contact me at [email protected].
Below you will find a list of rules created for the gratitude project, photos of a few participants, and a narrative of my journey from grief to gratitude.
- Anyone can participate.
- The images will be minimally processed and in Black and White.
- Participants will provide a gratitude word or statement.
- All participants have the right to allow or disallow the publishing of images, gratitude words, or statements.
- Publication of approved images, words, and or statements will be allowed on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
- Publication of approved images, words, and or statements will be allowed for exhibit and or mixed media presentations such as a book with pictures and inspirational stories.
Gail: Grateful For Second Chances
Harold And Anita: Grateful For Each Other
Lissa: Grateful For Nature
Arlene: Grateful For Her Family
Jenny: Grateful For Her Grandchildren
While I believe that it is my nature to be grateful, the gratitude project was born after a tumultuous time in my life. I was not thankful during this period. I was angry, grieving beyond words, and severely depressed. In February of 2010, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Almost one year later to the day, I held her hand tightly in mine as she took her last breath. Five hours later, I did the same for my father. My mother was expected to pass. It was difficult, but we had time to prepare. We put critical matters in order, let go of those that were no longer necessary, healed our hurts, and loved one another fiercely. My father’s passing was completely unexpected. In an ironic twist of fate, his will to live left, and his heart failed. Apparently, continuing in this world without my mother was not an option.
I became deeply depressed. For more than a year, I found little joy. I tried several different anti-depressants, therapy, and a lot of prayers. Nothing helped. The downward spiral continued, and my partner of 8 years grew weary of my condition. We had believed we would spend the rest of our days together. However, in my mental state, I had nothing to give anyone. Our relationship disintegrated, and we decided to part.
I was alone. I had no parents, no partner, and not much reason to hang on. There seemed to be no end to the darkness in my life. One December evening, I arrived home from work. I was beyond tired physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I found it nearly impossible to conjure enough energy to get out of the car. I even thought maybe I could sleep where I was sitting. But it was too cold, and I knew I had to go into my empty home where I would experience a different kind of cold.
My feet felt like lead, and each step I took was an extreme effort. Oddly, I did not walk to the door, but the bluff at the edge of my yard. The wind was bitter, and the wet snow stung as it struck my face. I began to cry uncontrollably. I raised my fists into the air and, in my crazed state, cursed God. I cursed Him for taking everyone and everything I loved. I told Him, rushed, and repeatedly, I cannot live this way anymore and to “bring me home.”
Time was non-existent, and I honestly have no idea how long I was there. I must have passed out during my tirade as I awakened on my knees. My hair and clothing we soaked through with the melting snow. I looked at my hands in bewilderment. Why was I still here! Could I have not made my need more clear to God? I did not know what to do. Finally, I found the strength to stand up, walk to my door, and enter my house. Once inside, I stripped off my drenched clothing, crawled into my bed, and hoped that tomorrow would never come.
Tomorrow arrived and, of course, became today. But this day was different than all the mornings I had experienced since my mother’s cancer diagnosis. The previous days had begun with a heavy burden, and a four-letter word that started with F. But, this morning, the weight was lifted. The sun shone brightly across my face and chest, and I was warm in a way that I had long forgotten was possible. I felt like an invisible loving force held me. I was at peace, I felt light, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. My first words of the day and nearly every day since were, thank you.
My life has changed significantly since then. I lead with my heart in nearly all I do. I take more chances on things that are illogical or impractical. I love more deeply, live more intentionally, and commit only to things that lift myself or others. I am happier than ever. I do not know what tomorrow brings, and I am not sure that I care. What I know is that I am grateful. I am thankful for all the days of my life: The good, the bad, and even the ugly. They made me who I am. I am grateful for all the special moments big and small, the people I have met, and the opportunities that present themselves. My passion for living and life is greater today than ever.
At some point in 2016, I began to wonder what gratitude looked like in a photograph. I decided I would ask folks if they would be willing to have images taken while they contemplated gratitude. Some folks agreed and the Gratitude Project was born.
About the Author: Gail Howarth is a professional photographer and human interest blogger. She lives in a small community in West Michigan where she shares her home with two cats, a nesting pair of sandhill cranes and the colts they bring each year, and an occasional human visitor.
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Contact me: [email protected]
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