Top

Jason Evans: A Proposal

Work / Photography

Founder Jason Evans reflects on ten years of inspiration from The Daily Nice

The Daily Nice is one of those online phenomenons that’s been sizzling away in the big internet frying pan since 2004, and this month sees it celebrate its tenth birthday. If you’re not familiar with site (where have you been??), the idea is simple: every day its creator Jason Evans uploads one photograph of something that made him happy. There’s no archive, no social media feeds – just that picture taken by Jason on the site for 24 hours.

While this sounds like fairly typical internet fodder nowadays remember he started this ten years ago, back when online attitudes to creativity and photography were very different. To celebrate the site’s tenth anniversary, we asked Jason a few questions about how The Daily Nice has changed and asked him to share some of his most memorable images…

Has The Daily Nice changed at all these ten years?

The front of house design of the site hasn’t changed, but behind the scenes there’s been tweaks to accommodate different technologies. Like any long-term project there are energy highs and lows. My practice is a live, organic one; different threads of enquiry run through my camerawork but the basic idea is solid.

What have been the main developments you’ve noticed in the way that photography is used online since you started the site? 

Just because you’ve got a camera, it doesn’t make you a photographer. Just because you chose X and not Y, doesn’t make you a curator. Digital freedom does not always engender a useful meritocracy. For example I’m not happy how formal image replication gets confused with authorship. It may be gratifying in the short term but it closes down aesthetic dialogue. Most of the images generated for social media conform to tight and specific formats, they are simple, shorthand note-taking, photographic procedure at its most basic. The filters on Instagram and other similar sites could be seen as exercises in turd polishing and then there’s the nostalgia. We live in a backward facing culture, afraid to face up to the tough realities of our late capitalist condition.

I go along with the consensus that there’s too much visual stuff floating around and it’s become a distraction while devaluing what serious image-makers contribute. I miss texture and nuance when I see everything onscreen or produced with digital media. I do enjoy some of the crazy juxtapositions on Tumblr sites, but mostly online photography is a boring, yet compulsive, bottomless pit.

The Daily Nice must take up a fair bit of time, or at least brain energy! How big a part of your life has it become?

I try not to think about it too much and keep it spontaneous and intuitive. I want the content to lead the narrative. It’s good therapy for me to carry this little snapshot camera around as a talisman to remind me to look for the niceness. I don’t have a smartphone and I like my technologies to be independent of each other. And I don’t keep an archive or record of what appeared when – I just let it go.

“The filters on Instagram and other similar sites could be seen as exercises in turd polishing and then there’s the nostalgia.”

Jason Evans

How long will it continue? 

I do not feel I need to plan ahead.

How has site positively helped someone? 

I was walking in Griffith Park one evening and came across a table for two laid out for dinner on the trail. Totally surreal, a very Los Angelean moment. This guy had set it up in order to propose to his girlfriend. I showed up just after she’d said yes. They called me over and asked me to take their picture, but the battery on their camera was dead. I made a picture with my little DailyNice Sony and emailed it to them, they used it for their wedding invitation. I love these little photo-social interactions – they are their own reward, totally life-affirming.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m currently finishing off a bunch of editorials for Noon, Inventory, The Gourmand and ManAboutTown to clear the decks for a commission for the Turner Contemporary, a HOME residency in Cliftonville and an education project with The Photographers Gallery. There’s new sleeves for Caribou in the pipe line and NYLPT features in contemporary Street Photography survey show Eyes on the Street curated by Brian Sholis at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

We asked Jason to pick out some of his favourite images from the history of The Daily Nice, and explain a little bit about them. Here’s his choices…

1a

Rather than consume, I photograph. In Tokyo you can find bonkers trainers. Like most of us I have enough shoes but I do enjoy looking at the designs, so now instead of buying them I take a picture of my faves. These were about five years ahead of the ugly-cool running shoe tread.

2a

A creative guard kept the show on the road by reinforcing a shattered window on our train. I have a thing about this tape, it is like the high-vis jacket – one of those inanimate signs that no one questions. You can pretty much do anything if you’re wearing a high-vis vest.

3a

Hiking in Wales. Everything about this colour and pattern combination makes me HAPPY. It is unceremoniously perfect.

4a

The River Itchen as it flows through Winchester is one of those places you can go for a wander in the cloisters and forget Steve Jobs ever happened. The feeling of a river’s current around my legs is one of my favourite things.

5a

Simultaneous contrast strikes again. I wish more people wore colour. I wish I wore more colour.

6a

I also love stripes. There is no need to intellectualise or understand this pleasure. If anything that might diminish the simple appreciation of looking at shadows like this and their gentle undulation on the kerb. I can’t drive and walk around Los Angeles without being rewarded by sights like this.

7a

This kind of pre-thunderstorm ‘end of the world’ light makes me tingle with anticipation and strangely, makes me thirsty too.

8a

Have you ever felt a rabbit’s ears? Sometimes I like to add oblique content to TDN, so the visual pleasure is secondary to a tactile quality here. Some of the foodstuffs I show are not particularly nice to look at but taste great. You’ll just have to imagine stroking this rabbit’s ears.