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Stephanie Congdon Barnes and Maria Alexandra Vettese are the photographers behind A Year of Mornings, a blog-turned-book that documents a year’s daily exchange of photos—one picture taken each morning and swapped by email—between two friends. What makes the pictures remarkable is that Barnes and Vettese seem of one mind, or at least one art director. Though the original Year of Mornings blog is now offline, you can catch Barnes and Vettese in their new form: a year of evenings.




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Some pairs of photos in the book just seem too unlikely to have appeared accidentally on the same day, rather than some art director stepping in and picking them to go together.

Maria: It is unreal, isn’t it? From the moment the project started we could see similarities in our visual language but it was really the viewers of the blog who showed us things we might not have seen. Through their comments we were led through the various connections they were making and it was extraordinary to be a part of it; it still is (with our evenings blog).

Stephanie: I really do believe that when we want there to be connections between things, then we see them. That’s the whole basis of faith, right? That said, there were many times when the similarity between the photos felt really eerie to me. I think the assumption is often that Maria and I had a longtime emotional connection before we started the project, but, in reality, we barely knew each other. We do, I think, have a strong emotional connection now, one that was created in part by these photos.

How did you meet?

Maria: We “met” each other through our art/craft blogs in early 2005. I went out to Portland, Ore. (where Stephanie lives) in the fall of 2005 and we had coffee/pastries for about 45 minutes. I could tell right away that I liked Stephanie so much, but, honestly, I couldn’t tell why. It was not until I started watching her progression online artistically and got to know her better that I knew why—she is so talented, so smart, quite humble, and I really admire her. From there Stephanie and I posted to Flickr very similar still-life photographs of our early morning scenes on the very same day (December 7, 2006). I thought it was so fantastic and was so energized by it I sent her an email, “what do you think about doing a mornings blog together?” She said yes and it was on from there.

Stephanie: Maria was one of the first online friendships that I developed. I had a bit of a crush on her, really. I just loved her aesthetic, her taste, her spirit and generosity. Meeting her briefly that time really solidified those feelings, but I feel like this project could have still taken place even if we’d never met in person. It’s a relationship that played itself out through the sharing of work and images. I was incredibly flattered when she proposed the idea to do 3191. I never imagined that it would lead to a book. For me it was initially just a way to get to know Maria and my camera a little better.

Do you share a similar outlook on life? On mornings?

Stephanie: The details of our lives are really quite different. I have a husband and two young children. My mornings can be really chaotic and rushed. That said, I think our outlooks are really quite similar. I think we both have an appreciation for the beauty of the everyday and for simple domestic life. I think we notice and appreciate the details. We both consider ourselves morning people.

Maria: I think we both share a love for the “do-over” quality that a new morning gives you, and I know we both love coffee and breakfast!

There aren’t many messy pictures here, or many showing messy lives outside the frame.

Stephanie: Well, when I look through the book, I see plenty of piles of clothes, unmade beds, dirty dishes, spilled food, peeling paint, and left-behind toys and art projects. I do think that we treated these things with the same reverence as the pretty things, that we tried to see the beauty in everything. There is, of course, a lot that is not included—I have the privacy of my family to consider. For me, this project was not about documenting every facet of my morning routine, it was about capturing just one little memory each day. I do feel that anyone that has spent time at my home would say the photos are an accurate representation of daily life around here. Someone asked me recently where all the cereal boxes were. We don’t eat boxed cereal, but you will see a lot of spilled granola!

Maria: Obviously with one shot of any given day you can’t capture the whole of it. But take 10/03, page 153, for example. On this day I remember feeling very sad, perhaps I was ill, I can’t remember. Of course you can’t see that in the shot, but I believe you can feel it. We made very few “rules” for our project and because of that we were able to come to each day with the openness of capturing whatever we found and felt like sharing—perhaps the rest of the story, what is outside of the frame, is up to the viewer to add.

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded The Morning News. He is the author of Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and You Lost Me There. His next novel is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. His Kindle e-book for The Morning News Editions, about visiting different American towns called Paris, was selected as a notable essay for Best American Essays 2013. More information can be found at his website. More by Rosecrans Baldwin