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Why am I doing this?

Why am I doing this?

Before I get into my blog, I wanted to let you all know that while I have been making great efforts to post a new blog with photos every day, and while I will continue to do so, there will be days that it will just not be possible.  Moving around constantly and dealing with other aspects of this project take up a substantial amount of time and have put a great deal of stress on me.  I have been making greater efforts to eat better, but now I need to make efforts to rest better as well.  I’m currently battling a cold and I can’t really afford to be sick.  In addition, I want to try to deliver a better written blog and and that requires me putting in a little more time on it.  Rest assured, I will still blogging about each every couch.  I am taking meticulous notes in order to deliver all the details as well as my perceptions and feelings relating to the events. In addition, to discussing each couch and the events surrounding them, I will be posting blogs discussing specific aspects of this journey.  Today’s entry is one of those posts.

I’m often asked why I am doing this project.  Why would someone put themselves through arduous task of moving from one place to another, day after day, for 50 days?  Well, here’s the story.  Over the past few years I had been working as a freelance visual effects producer.  There had never been completely steady work, but there had always been enough to keep the bills paid and stock up the bank account in between projects.  And, in between projects I could work on my photography skills and build that business.  It was a nice routine.  Then, in September 2008, after I finished one of these visual effects project, the economy collapsed.  I had been told that there would be projects coming up and all of sudden those projects started to disappear.  I spent late 2008 waiting for something, anything to come up.  It always had before, so despite the economy,  I was sure it would again.  The fall led to winter and I was still not working.  So, somewhere around New Year’s Day 2009, I decided that I was now a photographer.  That is what I would tell people that I did, from then on.  If I was going to bust my ass looking for work, it might as well be work that I really wanted to do.   But what I meant by “photographer” was uncertain.  Would I be selling stock images?  Shooting weddings or other events?   Would I be submitting to galleries or contests?  Or all of the above and more?  I went with the last option and started shooting all kinds of things.  While I was starting to get some attention and making some contacts, I wasn’t getting any paying work.  After struggling through the first half of 2009, I finally landed a freelance visual effects related gig for a few months over the summer.  The photography was put on hold, for the most part, and I welcomed the much needed income.  While working this job, it seemed all the more clear that after this project,  additional visual effects work would not be coming my way any time soon.  So, after a housesitting visit to New York in the fall, I returned home more determined to make a living as a photographer.  But, once again, while I got some pats on the back, the money still wasn’t coming.  All of a sudden, a year had passed.  It was 2010.  I felt that I had made some progress with my skills and with my contacts, but I was still struggling to keep my head above water.  But then, earlier this year, something changed.  I started to get occassional calls and emails asking me if I would be up for shooting this catalog or this wedding as well as other things.  I felt that I was being taken seriously.  Finally.   While I booked a wedding and some of the work did start to come in, much of it was still passing me by.  I was being considered, but I still wasn’t getting most of this work.  I felt grateful for the respect and the consideration, but unfortunately neither of those things pay the rent.  Having worked freelance much of my adult life, I was well aware that this would not continue, however.  I knew that I could take a good photograph and that one job would lead to two, and that two would lead to ten and at some point I would be able to make a living at this.  But when?   At same time I was still collecting unemployment and that was keeping my bills paid.  That wouldn’t last forever though.  Congress was constantly having to renew the federal unemployment extensions and with these short extensions, my future was always looking quite uncertain.  I started to worry.  Would I start getting enough work before my unemployment ran out?  If I didn’t, what would I do?  Would I have to move back home with one family member or another?  Would friends be able to help me keep going?  Would I have to give up this pursuit of a photography career that I had invested so much time in?  In a moment of desperation tinged with humour, I posted a status update on Facebook that read something like “Before the year is out, I will either be a successful photographer or I will be sleeping on your couch…or both”.  Well this led to a trail of comments with friends and strangers alike, pushing me in the direction sleeping on a different couch every night and making a coffee table book out of the photos.  Could I do this?   I had to do it.  There was no choice.  It was risky, but I had to go for it.  I had to jump in head first.  I didn’t want to get a job that I would hate.  At least not without making one last effort.  If nothing else, I thought could save rent for a month or two, catch up on my bills, work on my photo skills and spend some time with some friends.   Hopefully I could save enough money to keep me going for a little while longer.  Making this decision, would also force to change my surroundings and move out of my stagnant environment as well.  I had been wanting to do that too.  Once I was done, I could start again, in a new place.  Once I made this commitment  to make these changes all at once, it scared the hell out of me.  I was a homebody who liked my personal space and time to myself.  I had just decided to give up all of that.  I had always been a very self-sufficient person who took care of myself even if it was just scraping by.  I had just decided to ask for help.  This project would put me so far out of my comfort zone, and I intuitively knew that was just what I needed.  Seeing that this was more than just a financial decision, I knew that I would need to document these experiences and the changes that I would go through, which is why I decided to do this blog.  What about my hosts?  I hadn’t just gotten offers from friends. Some acquaintances, and  even strangers have offered to open their doors for me.  What possessed these people, especially those acquaintances and strangers, to let me into their home?  I would need to explore that as well, which is why I am videotaping interviews of each of these people.   So what began as desperate measure to save a few buck and perhaps promote my photography , has turned into much more.  I’m honing my photography skills and I’m learning alot about myself and about these people who I now call friends.  My skills are better than ever, I’m surrounded by some of the kindest, supportive, and most talented people around, and I’m capable of doing anything I put my mind to.  Failure is now not an option.  There are no limits to what I can do and acheive.  Anything is possible.

About 50 Couches in 50 Nights

My name is Dean MacKay. In June and July of 2010, I slept on 50 different couches in 50 consecutive nights. I took photographs of the couches, both as a couch and as my bed. I took portraits of my hosts and interviewed them. I documented their homes on film and digitally as well as in a journal. I was treated to home cooked meals and intimate secrets. I was cared for when I was ill and checked in on after I was long gone. There were sleepless nights and busy days and times spent discussing the past and dreaming about the future. I drank a lot of coffee at a lot of different coffee houses. There were old friends who became closer and acquaintances who I now call my friends. There were even strangers who invited me into their homes. Threads were woven among them all. My skills were honed as I practiced my craft on a daily basis. I learned many things about my hosts and I continue to learn many things about myself. These times are unforgettable. This journey was initially born out of necessity. The economic times had taken their toll. But the fruit of this labor is not simply financial. It is emotional and spiritual and societal. I tapped into something that is still developing. And as it develops I will share with you this knowledge as well as providing you a way to share it with others. I hope that you will support me as this journey continue and grows. I plan to unveil many things from this work including a coffee table book on the couches, and perhaps other books and a documentary. I'm also hoping to get the blog carried on a major website. Of course, and second project is also in the works although what form it will take has yet to be determined. Any assistance or advice that you can offer to further these projects is welcome. Your support, both financial and emotional, is crucial to my success. Thank You. © Dean MacKay 2010


3 thoughts on “Why am I doing this?

  1. Dean! You gotta have a party after all this is over where you invite all of the couch owners! We’ll all wear name tags that read “Hi! I’m Couch # ____”

    Posted by Louis Jacinto | June 22, 2010, 3:02 pm
  2. Why are you doing this?

    Its very simple.


    Booyah! this idea is brilliant.

    I’m loving it.

    Fussy Fag

    Posted by Icepac | June 22, 2010, 7:53 pm
  3. Dean,

    I am enjoying your posts both here and on FB. Looking forward to the finished product. So far very interesting.


    Posted by Dammy | June 24, 2010, 12:05 am

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