365 Chico ends with surprising discoveries


Photo courtesy of Sesar Sanchez.

Last January, Sanchez set out to photograph and interview one Chico local every day for the past year. What began as a mere concept, blossomed into a grand and diverse compilation of portraits and interviews.

Now that Sanchez’s project is coming to a close at the end of this month, he explains his personal insights and the value of connecting with others.

“This project has given me perspective,” Sanchez said. “There’s a vast array of different people who have their own journeys and layers of complex emotions.”

Every day Sanchez would meet and photograph a new subject, asking them a few questions about their lives. What makes the interviews as interesting as they are, are the thought-provoking kinds of questions that he asked. He was able to draw out the most intimate answers he could from his subjects, which added a deeper layer to his already raw imagery.

Through his medium he learned a lot about empathy.

“People who have different opinions from me have had different experiences and their experiences shouldn’t be invalidated. This kind of empathy is essential to navigating an already complicated life,” Sanchez said. “I learned that life can be as difficult or as simple as you want it to be.”

The most challenging aspect of this whole project, besides the physical work, was his struggle to constantly put himself in a place of discomfort whenever he had to meet with a subject. In order to have the most organic type of interaction, Sanchez would have to shut out his own insecurities and doubts.

“I would put myself in a position that I’m not normally that great at, which is to be a personable, communicative and friendly person and not fake it. I call it ‘meet someone at the table,’” Sanchez said.

A perfect example of this challenge was when a subject asked Sanchez to take nude photos of her in the wilderness. Reluctant to steer his project in a seemingly illegitimate direction, he thought it over for 8 months before meeting with her. Together they hiked four hours in order to become comfortable with one another before taking and presenting tasteful photos.

“Nothing great ever happens when you’re in an easy or comfortable place,” Sanchez said. “It was memorable because we had to spend four hours together, which isn’t something you would normally do with a stranger.”

Though Sanchez welcomes the change, he will miss the meaningful routine behind his work. The project has been a powerful source of positivity for him.

His next project will be 50/52— a documentation of the 50 states in 52 days. Travelling and living out of a van, Sanchez will chronicle the nation through photos, people and words.

Sanchez encourages all to live creatively and to genuinely connect with people.

“It’s a practice of being mindful and present in the moment with the person you’re with,” he said.

Sanchez’s work can be found on Instagram: @365chico, Tumblr and on Facebook.