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This Man Took A Polaroid Every Day For 18 Years Until The Day He Died, And It’ll Break Your Heart
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Photography5 years ago

This Man Took A Polaroid Every Day For 18 Years Until The Day He Died, And It’ll Break Your Heart

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 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

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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Kelly
Community Member
5 years ago

It's the simple and silly. Pictures that draw you in.make you feel like you've known him and that makes the last few so tragic. I feel like I lost a friend. 💙

Susanna Vesna
Community Member
5 years ago

I feel the same...</3

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Alexandru Guraliuc
Community Member
5 years ago

Makes you think ! Life is for living.every single day !

Debjani Majhi
Community Member
5 years ago

Yes i agree with you.....life is one so enjoy every moments of it

Load More Replies...
Tolga IŞIKYILDIZ
Community Member
5 years ago

Even though it is pretty normal for today, I felt like I was peeping on his private life. Maybe it is because those pictures, taken by polaroid machine, were meant to exist only one instance and not definitely for mass presentation like this. I couldnt help but feel disturbed.

Daniël Oosterhuis
Community Member
5 years ago

Jamie allowed it, though. His friends had promised him to publicize the photos after his death, in his final days, so the project could be seen by the world.

Load More Replies...
Andrea Freeman
Community Member
5 years ago

Made me smile...made me sad...made me just feel...

Arty
Community Member
5 years ago

facebook/instagram before internet?

Sara Fallahi
Community Member
5 years ago

Those who learn to 'live' may not get to live long. Those who live long may not get to 'live' at all ...

Heather Alisse
Community Member
5 years ago

sooo the boob is mature content but the penis tip is cool? am I the only one seeing this...

Jasmine Chen
Community Member
5 years ago

Not the only one...

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Joachim Rimer
Community Member
5 years ago

These shots remind me so much of my late wife Ursula, who passed away because of cancer on January 24th, 2004.

Ana Ryguła
Community Member
5 years ago

Such a beautiful testament of love, youth and joy. So touching. He must have been a wonderful person.

Lyone Fein
Community Member
5 years ago

Thank you for having this essay -- and for NOT having ratings for each photo!

James Shank
Community Member
5 years ago

I like that he got married when he was sick. I did as well. I had Leukemia, and I credit my wife with saving my life. I wish he'd made it too. Much of the last few pictures strikes a chord with me.

Anastasya
Community Member
5 years ago

OMG ! It's shocking , I'm about to cry ..

tweetybird
Community Member
5 years ago

i cried so much looking at these pictures

varwenea
Community Member
5 years ago

"would you know my name if i saw you in heaven..." Simple pictures, each a thousand words, draw me in and shoved me down an emotional cliff. Damn...

James Rodewald
Community Member
4 years ago

Thought you might be interested in the book that is being made of this project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hughcrawford/some-photos-of-that-day-book-jamie-livingstons-pol

Andy Miller
Community Member
5 years ago

And just think - he did all this before smartphones were around making 'selfies' so easy to take and keep. Imagine how many untold stories could be collected from our mobile phones?

Community Member
5 years ago

Went through chemo but didn't lose his beard...????

Constance Wickens
Community Member
5 years ago

Different kind of hair

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Susie Stock
Community Member
5 years ago

Tomorrow is never a guarantee. Even if you have to try hard, then try hard. Life is fleeting.

Jessica Nussbaumer
Community Member
5 years ago

What a beautiful life he led, 100 years in a short 41.

Sick Boy
Community Member
5 years ago

Yeah, cancer is a beautiful thing.

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ZUKE the GOOCH
Community Member
5 years ago

Beautiful.

JasPreet Kaur
Community Member
5 years ago

These photos tell us to LIVE every moment with full contentment, make bridges not walls, spread love no hatred, one day u will go forever, only memories last so make them worthy!

Holger Lockertsen
Community Member
5 years ago

Thank you, Jamie

Malgosia Trojanska
Community Member
4 years ago

Life and death documented... Such a moving story...

Duke Eastwood
Community Member
5 years ago

cool story bro

Ebonique Wilson
Community Member
5 years ago

This is so sad.

Grazia Franco
Community Member
5 years ago

John Lennon in the Star Wars pic?

Andy Miller
Community Member
5 years ago

Such a moving story.

Kira Leseman
Community Member
5 years ago

Beautiful and very sad at the end.

Ella Nikolaeva
Community Member
5 years ago

I agree it makes you think...and I appreciate his sharing the beautiful moments of his life...

Katrina Matijczyk
Community Member
5 years ago

Such mundane photos of day to day life. You don't realize how much you got to know him until the last few photos. I saw the second to the last page stated there were 6 more photos...all the other pages said see 5 more...I knew these would be the last 6 pictures and I was physically upset. Anxious, teary. This is an amazing picture srtiry5that draws you in and makes care about a complete stranger.

Lynne Marton
Community Member
5 years ago

I'm sitting here blubbering like I just lost a very dear friend - and before I opened this email I had no clue Jamie even had existed!! It was a very personal journey - and nearing the end, becoming almost too personal. Hard to believe it will be 20 years in October since this final pic.

Martin
Community Member
5 years ago

Hope it wasn't the chemicals in the thousands of Polaroids he took and handled that gave him the big C

endelbendel
Community Member
5 years ago

Nope. Heart intact. Only that we couldn't get the film after Polaroid folded; how'd he?

Simon Kwan
Community Member
5 years ago

Heartbreaking & beautiful. Tears in my eyes. Thanks for sharing such an intimate & personal perspective of a life cut short but well lived

Marieange Dobresk
Community Member
5 years ago

Death Is Nothing At All By Henry Scott-Holland More Henry Scott-Holland Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am

Marieange Dobresk
Community Member
5 years ago

I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again Source: http://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/death-is-nothing-at-all-by-henry-scott-holland

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Amanda Cariker
Community Member
5 years ago

Last picture made me cry. I enjoyed every single photograph. Much love to the Artist. <3

Ouzodaki
Community Member
5 years ago

My love died from cancer on her 62nd birthday, last year. It's actually a great day "to go at", regardless the sadness, sorrow and emptiness

Holger Lockertsen
Community Member
5 years ago

Sorry for your loss. Can't imagine how it must feel to lose a partner :(

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Robert Chaen Changeu
Community Member
5 years ago

18 Polaroid Years of Jamie Livingston's life and his world. Thank you for sharing your snapshots of your life.

Eddie77
Community Member
5 years ago

Life in this world is just a breath...

Abhilash Das
Community Member
5 years ago

He was a man of hard work and determination and that's all he ever needed

Mihovil Frater
Community Member
5 years ago

it's my birthday as well

현준 이
Community Member
5 years ago

Such a tragic scene, last pic.

Durval M. Campos
Community Member
5 years ago

I'm emotional after reading and seeing this. Made me reviewed all that I've left behind. RIP Jamie.

Phillipe Knippel
Community Member
5 years ago

This damn cancer. I hate this stuff. I lost my dog Úrsula (Boxer) 07 january this year(2017). The shit started on november, and very fast, we lost her this month. Now a days I know that life is a blink!

adoracat
Community Member
5 years ago

I lost my heartmate 10 years ago this past Xmas. Cancer royally sucks. It gets easier, it's never truly gotten over.

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Susan L. Miller
Community Member
5 years ago

A man who lived life well, didn't take things too seriously, married for love and died with those who cared for him around. What's not to like?

Bunnies are better!!
Community Member
5 years ago

Bittersweet

Joseph Wagnon
Community Member
5 years ago

Wonderful pictures. Wonderful artist.

Michelle Bestler
Community Member
5 years ago

this was so beautiful and sad...

Michael Smith
Community Member
5 years ago

I feel like I just lost a really good friend.

Tiger-Lily
Community Member
5 years ago

This was amazing! and it was only a tiny portion of the photos! 😍

Constance Wickens
Community Member
5 years ago

I think this is beautiful, his life might have been shorter than others but the pictures show a life well lived and that's so much more important. RIP and thank you.

Luigi Giovani
Community Member
5 years ago

I believe in the next life and he's energy back again to start or finish his work

Ana Super
Community Member
5 years ago

This makes me sad maybe I shouldn't have watched this at all or whatever.

Jane Healy
Community Member
5 years ago

Very powerful makes you want to make every day count. Thank you for sharing such private moments x

Grazia Franco
Community Member
5 years ago

Anyway... These photos bring some pain, in some way...

Puddin Tane
Community Member
5 years ago

I'm so sorry to hear that. I hope he put all his photos in to a book and published it, or that his wife did. She could make a good living off of his work. Maybe that is what he wanted her to do. May he rest in peace.

Sarah Blanche Brinsfield
Community Member
5 years ago

Thank you for sharing this. Thank you Jami.

ashlyn peterson
Community Member
5 years ago

i feel the same way ...after seeing all these photos i feel like i know him like a very close friend .

Deana
Community Member
5 years ago

So moving...These are just beautiful.

Marty BlackEagle-Carl
Community Member
5 years ago

i'm sad as his life was cut so short... RIP.. almost 20yrs ago. i was 37 at he time, i wish i could of known him

louisevill
Community Member
5 years ago

Thank you! <3

Avinash Hemmady
Community Member
5 years ago

Utterly beautiful. Waves of happiness and sadness, maxima and minima of life.

Avinash Hemmady
Community Member
5 years ago

This is utterly beautiful. Waves of happiness and sadness, maxima and minima of life. Rest in peace

Dragon Girl
Community Member
5 years ago

Very intimate look at a life...amazing that he had the wherewithall to do this everyday! Sorry he left so soon...

Greta Bershteyn-Kosenko
Community Member
5 years ago

Gripping

Shakti K.C
Community Member
5 years ago

This is so inspiring. Live your life for every day. What a journey?

Kamaruzaman I
Community Member
5 years ago

So sad looking at the last picture. 😢

zeldapajamas
Community Member
5 years ago

He took a photo on my birthday... August 9. What an amazing series.

Hailey Schafer
Community Member
5 years ago

He took a photo on everyone's birthday...

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Ann Herring
Community Member
5 years ago

this is amazingly moving

Bill Purvis
Community Member
5 years ago

A fabulous legacy.

Bill Purvis
Community Member
5 years ago

A fabulous legacy.

Samantha Christine
Community Member
5 years ago

Never realised people were taking photos of themselves in mirrors that long ago! Very poignant story, a glimpse into a private collection of memories

TotallyClaudy
Community Member
5 years ago

Beautyfull and heartbreaking.

Lu
Community Member
5 years ago

It's amazing to get to witness and share in his journey, seems like it was filled with joy and many challenges with his health.

Kathy Sou
Community Member
5 years ago

May God rest his soul!

ელენე ქარაბაკი.
Community Member
5 years ago

I think I'm in love!!!

Sanajah Rodriguez
Community Member
5 years ago

Omg..soo sad 😢

FeeTee
Community Member
5 years ago

Tragic.

Nancy Arnold
Community Member
5 years ago

Wow ...

Silent Skeleton
Community Member
5 years ago

This is amazing :o)

Northelyn
Community Member
5 years ago

this is an amazing idea..He is not in this world right now but we still can see his memories

Kristi Zoebelein
Community Member
5 years ago

Beautiful! But we discuss for a minute why I can see part of his penis in one photograph but the photo of a breast is declared "Mature Content" and has to be clicked on to see?

Sick Boy
Community Member
5 years ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

The marriage was what ultimately killed him.

Katja Kamjanets
Community Member
5 years ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

He was doing Instagram before it was mainstream.

Jonathan Eatsalot
Community Member
5 years ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

Life is short, take lots of pictures...........?

Jonathan Eatsalot
Community Member
5 years ago

This comment is hidden. Click here to view.

So, Facebook before Facebook?

Kelly
Community Member
5 years ago

It's the simple and silly. Pictures that draw you in.make you feel like you've known him and that makes the last few so tragic. I feel like I lost a friend. 💙

Susanna Vesna
Community Member
5 years ago

I feel the same...</3

Load More Replies...
Alexandru Guraliuc
Community Member
5 years ago

Makes you think ! Life is for living.every single day !

Debjani Majhi
Community Member
5 years ago

Yes i agree with you.....life is one so enjoy every moments of it

Load More Replies...
Tolga IŞIKYILDIZ
Community Member
5 years ago

Even though it is pretty normal for today, I felt like I was peeping on his private life. Maybe it is because those pictures, taken by polaroid machine, were meant to exist only one instance and not definitely for mass presentation like this. I couldnt help but feel disturbed.

Daniël Oosterhuis
Community Member
5 years ago

Jamie allowed it, though. His friends had promised him to publicize the photos after his death, in his final days, so the project could be seen by the world.

Load More Replies...
Andrea Freeman
Community Member
5 years ago

Made me smile...made me sad...made me just feel...