#365, Chelsea, NYC
In the summer of 2006, while on a two-week holiday in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, I came up with an idea for a project. I've always been into projects -- it's why writing a novel will always be more satisfying to me than short stories -- because life's too damn vast without them and sometimes you just need some creative structure to keep you occupied from day to day. It was on my first day exploring the streets of Prague that I began to notice an assortment of beautiful and peculiar numbers on the buildings, walls, and streets of Mala Strana. I took a photograph of one, and then found another, and very quickly the idea came to me: I would try to photograph numbers 1-99 throughout the three cities I visited. I had no clear plan of what to do with the photos once I took them. That would come later. For now, I had a project -- an urban scavenger hunt -- and I hit the ground running.
The numbers cooled off for some time. (Yes, I got them all.) Then in the fall of 2007, I had an installation of my photographs at the Fall Café in Brooklyn: eleven panels of nine numbers each, stretched across one wall in a display of symmetry that made my order-craving heart unspeakably happy. After six weeks and many excited friends offering compliments, I took the photos down and propped them up against the wall in the hallway of my apartment where they remain to this day. That project was done, but there was only one problem. I kept paying attention to numbers. I saw cool numbers everywhere: in architecture, on apartments, painted on peeling walls. They wouldn't let me alone. So I kept collecting them. Again, I didn't know what to do with them. I was just a collector like any other. I gathered them because it gave me pleasure to do so.
Ampersand Seven -- the next stage of the project -- came about because I didn't just want to look at numbers. I wanted to write about them. I wanted to share them. Each number had a story, and the more places I visited, the more stories I gathered. Writing a novel is very rewarding, but mostly it's a lonely slog through the fields. You toil for months, then years without any feedback (I don't share my fiction till it's "ready," which usually means that I horde it). I was hungry to share some of my writing. I was tired of feeling like a mad scientist. ("What's Therese doing there behind her laptop?" "Oh, she says she's writing a novel." "A novel! How interesting! Does she ever share any of it?" "No, she just sits there looking concerned for hours and then begins cackling maniacally. Then she leaves after a few hours, comes back the next day, and does the same thing.") I was, in short, kind of losing my mind. A blog, with its freeform layout and chance for opening dialogue with readers, seemed like the perfect antidote.
On January 1st, 2009, I posted a photograph of a tiny #1 from Prague -- the city where the number collecting madness began. The next day, I posted a handsome Italian #2. And I kept posting. One picture a day. Every day. In sequential order, all the way up to the end. Sometimes with commentary, other times with none. Some days I geeked out on typography and others I rattled on about the pleasure of wandering in alleys or vision quests in Tucson . There were sad-luck dames and soul burgers in Memphis and poetry-writing security guards in Dublin. I had wonderful readers who shared their thoughts, either about the image or about the story that went along with it. Every day I looked forward to posting a new number and seeing what thoughts or reactions it prompted in my readers. Some days the comments were quiet and others we rattled on about David Lynch or waffles or fish or fonts. And today, after a fruitful year and many, many numbers, the "365 Numbers in 365 Days" experiment comes to its quiet conclusion.
It wouldn't be properly concluded if I didn't emphasize what enormous satisfaction I have gained from the feedback of my readers. Y'all have been what makes &7 what it is. Clicking on the comments was far more fun than I ever imagined it could be, and over time, I realized that the dialogue here has been what sustained me through the days when the number-a-day demands threatened to feel at all difficult or tiresome. It never really did get tiresome at all, thanks to you. I've found friends and other bloggers whose sites have become daily or weekly pit stops for me, and I will continue to make those pit stops. Thank you for making this so much fun.
As for what's next for Ampersand Seven, I can tell you this: yes, the number line is ending for this year, but the blog will most definitely go on. I'm going to take a much-needed break from the grueling pace, so it may be quiet here for awhile as I try to enjoy a little aftermath and let the dust settle. I'll be taking January off, but I plan to be back shortly thereafter with all the curious pictures, bursts of snark, and digressions you've come to know so well. In the meantime, I hope you will feel free to let me know what you've enjoyed or if there's anything you'd like to see in the new year. Thank you to everyone for the kind words and the inspiration, and I hope you'll continue to stop by to see what's new. And if you're pining for your daily number fix -- sorry, addicts -- the Random Number Generator on the sidebar is there to help tide you over.