Every day after college, 21-year-old Roycin D’Souza would head to a performance club or restobar to photograph bands as they performed live.
The Commerce student began freelancing as a gig photographer at age 19, determined to build an impressive portfolio before he finished college. Then monotony set in and D’Souza decided he needed to challenge himself and his camera skills.
So, on June 1 last year, he logged onto microblogging website Twitter and broadcast a resolution — he would shoot one person from his Twitter list every day, for the next 365 days, in a setting that reflected their personality and included their Twitter handle scrawled on a piece of paper.
He called the project TweeterADay365 or #TAD365.
It quickly went viral and, over the past year, has driven D’Souza’s number of followers on Twitter from 1,500 to 4,800. For the college student, it has meant a renewed commitment to photography, and a guaranteed portfolio featuring just the flair and variety he had wanted.
Though he doesn’t know it, D’Souza is one of a growing number of young, creative professionals using the power of social networking to pursue daily participatory projects, pushing themselves and others to commit to a passion or pursue a long-neglected hobby or interest.
Among the other such projects launched over the past year are #55wordstory on Twitter, started by freelance writer Vivek Tejuja, 29, to push himself and others to commit to writing every day; Breakfast Project on Facebook, in which media professional Pratishtha Khan, 35, committed to trying 356 different healthy breakfasts in 365 days; Tangible Memory on Tumblr, in which marketing executive Mahinn Ali Khan, 37, invites people to introspect and contribute to her blog and crossover project on memory and nostalgia; and #ThursdayTagline, a blog started by a marketing manager who committed to uploading one nature photograph every week.
While the motivation behind most of these projects is not monetary, many have garnered sponsorships and tie-ups from companies looking to improve their brand identity in the social media space.
For D’Souza, #TAD365 has also boosted his career in ways he had not envisioned. By August, he had been approached by digital music platform Artist Aloud.com with a tie-up that enabled him to shoot artistes such as Bollywood composer Ehsaan Noorani (one-third of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio) and singer Anushka Manchanda. Also among his 365 are multi-Grammy Award-winning British singer-composer Imogen Heap.
As the photos began to be circulated on Twitter and via photo-sharing website Flickr, D’Souza received requests to be profiled from as far off as the UK, US, Dubai and Malta. So far, he has taken up such offers in Dubai, Delhi and Bangalore.
Now a month shy of completing his project (he lost four weeks to illness, exams and assignments), he still travels an average of 40 km on his scooter every day, with his camera and equipment, meeting and photographing the faces behind Twitter handles.
“Before #TAD365, people would tend not to take me seriously because of my age,” he says. “But now, I get twice the number of professional assignments I used to get, and I get a lot more respect as a photographer.”