The (in)direct benefits of everyday photography projects

Lauren’s timing to ask if I wanted to document her Swim Every Day in January challenge was perfect. As every freelancer will say, 2020 was turbulent. I was incredibly fortunate to land a client that was keeping things ticking along but I was still at a bit of a loose end. (Well, we had our second baby in December 2020, but you know, they’re easy, right..)

Lauren making a ‘toe’ glove after she got frost nip

The idea was simple, to swim outdoors everyday in January in aid of Mental Health Swims. As with everything, the idea turned into something less tangible and I know that Lauren started to reflect more on who she was, and what she was doing. I did the same.

Beautifully tranquil and peaceful foggy morning in Clevedon marine lake
Some of the mornings were just incredibly peaceful

Her challenge was inspired by Red January and we aimed to stay local in accordance with lockdown which meant a lot of time spent on Clevedon’s sea front. Revisiting my hometown whilst completing an intimate photography project was nice in itself. As you can imagine the temperatures weren’t pretty but I admired Lauren’s commitment to the cause. In the end, we completed 31 dips, some more successful than others, and Lauren raised £1,626 to support @mentalhealthswims and raise funds that allowed them to encourage others to reap the benefits outdoor swimming.

Lauren Holt Swimming in Clevedon Marine Lake everyday in January
Formal Friday Swim in Clevedon Marine Lake
Formal Friday

The impact of daily photography challenges

I needed something to shake things up and pull me out of an uncreative rut. This photography project gave me something to focus on and commit to. There are plenty of direct benefits that are obvious like getting out of the house and cycling everyday (ish). However, it was the indirect benefit that has struck me the most.

Jade had been unofficially swimming everyday since November 2020(!) and naturally our paths crossed. Soon she was swimming with Lauren regularly and it turned into a project of photographing why ‘people’ swim, not just Lauren. The thing is, Jade and I really hit it off and it turns out that we’re incredibly likeminded. Not only is she another creative marketing freelancer (amongst other things), but she’s become my unofficial business advisor, helping me see the wood for the trees and giving me a much-needed regular kick up the backside.

Networking is a funny thing. It doesn’t come naturally to an outgoing introvert who will gladly and confidently talk to anyone but has a tendency to crawl back into the safety of his comfort level. Finding those people who you really relate to, and then become good friends with makes the freelance lifestyle so much more enjoyable. If you’re stuck in a rut, find someone to do something with everyday for a week or month. At most, it took a couple of hours out of my day, but it has totally transformed my outlook and work ethic – for the better.

Lauren Holt is a ranger for Mendip Hills AONB
Jade Wicks is a business mentor, come marketing consultant, come entrepreneur.

Using a vintage lens to photograph Jade Wicks in Clevedon seafront
Sometimes only vintage lenses will do (Jade)