Heartbreaking Story Of A Man Who Took A Polaroid Every Day For 18 Years Until The Day He Died

Published 7 years ago

Jamie Livingston is sadly no longer with us, but his incredibly intimate photography project will ensure that he’ll never be forgotten.

The project began on March 31st, 1979, when the native New Yorker (and then a college student) took a single photograph. He then took a picture every day for the next 18 years, a tradition he maintained right until the day he died in 1997. Armed with a Polaroid SX-70, Livingston went about documenting every facet of his daily life, from friends, family and relationships, to his job as a filmmaker and photographer and the everyday happenings on the streets of New York.

The latter stages of his project became more introspective as he documented his battle with cancer following his diagnosis in 1997. We see the scar from his brain surgery, we see his hair fall out, and we see the engagement ring that he gave to his girlfriend just weeks before he passed away on October 25th, 1997. Jamie left behind a project comprised of over 6,000 pictures, and in them, he left a truly remarkable life portrait unlike any other.

See below for some of our favorite pictures from his incredible collection. They were uploaded to a website called “Jamie Livingston: some photos of that day” by Betsy Reid and Hugh Crawford, two friends of Jamie’s who promised to keep his project alive after his death. Be sure to check out the entire collection if you ever get the chance. Just keep a box of tissues handy.

More info: Jamie Livingston: some photos of that day (h/t: boredpanda)

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June 15, 1979: Self-portrait of Jamie Livingston

March 31, 1979: First photo of the project. He eventually took over 6,000

May 27, 1979: Jamie was a student at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson

March 31, 1980: Many pictures were taken in New York. This one was taken on the subway

May 26, 1980: He also liked to take pictures of his friends

August 11, 1980:

June 13, 1981: As well as a film maker and photographer, Jamie was also a circus performer

December 6, 1980: There is no particular theme to his pictures. Some of them are abstract

June 1, 1981: Some are more thoughtful

July 26, 1981: And some are downright random

March 7, 1982: Early virtual reality?

April 11, 1982:

April 19, 1982:

July 18, 1982: He took a trip to Europe in the summer of 1982

July 22, 1982: This picture was taken in France

November 14, 1982:

January 1, 1983: New Year’s Day

January 21, 1983: This is Jamie at work.  He was a cinematographer and music video editor back in the early days of MTV

April 3, 1984: By this time Jamie would have had over 1,500 pictures

May 5, 1984:

August 3, 1984:

May 8, 1985: Mirrors are a common theme in his photographs

June 27, 1985:

September 3, 1985:

March 13, 1986:

April 29, 1986: Jamie was a Mets fan. Here’s him buying tickets with a friend

August 9, 1986:

September 23, 1986: Some of his photographs feel incredibly intimate

December 12, 1986:

December 27, 1986:

March 30, 1988: He lays all out his photographs. By now he has thousands of them

June 7, 1988:

January 30, 1989:

July 2, 1989: As well as his many other talents, Jamie was also an accordion player

July 7, 1990:

December 7, 1990: Goofing around while shopping for Christmas trees

December 8, 1990: Somebody having a bright idea

March 5, 1991:

April 9, 1991: Baseball tickets

March 13, 1994: Although Jamie appears in many pictures, he’s rarely seen smiling

March 28, 1994

November 8, 1995:

January 2, 1996: Sometimes it’s not clear who exactly is behind the camera

June 26, 1996: The Twin Towers

December 5, 1996:

February 7, 1997: Star Wars, re-released in cinemas for its 20th anniversary

February 13, 1997: Passed out in bed

April 25, 1997:

May 2, 1997: Jamie’s health begins to deteriorate in May 1997. He is diagnosed with cancer

May 4, 1997: He has to have surgery, as seen by this scar on his head

May 8, 1997:

June 2, 1997: Self-portrait

June 24, 1997: Medication becomes a regular part of his life

July 19, 1997:

July 29, 1997: Jamie’s chemotherapy causes him to lose his hair

August 13, 1997:

August 20, 1997: Friends visit him in hospital

August 21, 1997:

September 11, 1997: His hair slowly starts to grow back

September 29, 1997: But Jamie is still seriously ill

October 5, 1997: He decides to propose to his girlfriend. You can see her in the background

October 7, 1997: Jamie and his wife on their wedding day

October 10, 1997:

October 20, 1997: Not long after his wedding, Jamie’s health gets worse

October 24, 1997: A friend plays music for him in the hospital

October 25, 1997: Jamie’s final picture. He died on his 41st birthday


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