What does the day of your birth say about you? Camila Gargantini has a lot to share about birthdays through the lens of her camera and the pages of her soon-to-be published book, The Birthday Book Project. Over the last year, she has set out to create an epic book of 366 portraits, with each person representing a birthday—their own birthday—for every day of the year, including February 29th. When we last met Camila, she shared the stories behind the shots of her three favorite portraits featured in the book. Today, we’re checking back in to see how she’s doing with the project.

“There are number of layers to the project which are important to me and that drove the inspiration. I wanted to work with Canadian photographers to elevate our talent here right at home. I wanted to empower both the photographers and the subjects being photographed to help them tell their stories. I wanted to celebrate community and collaboration while highlighting the diversity and uniqueness that make up each of us.”
—Camila Gargantini

But truly, the most awe-inspiring thing about this project is how it captures the process of collaboration, between her and a team of 11 talented photographers, and also with her portrait subjects to capture a single photo that best tells their life stories.

So we tagged along with Camila and her subject of the day—our very own CEO Andy Yang—to get a behind-the-scenes look at how this process looks like and to see how a photo shoot for The Birthday Book Project comes together.

“It was an honor being included in The Birthday Book Project. It’s funny—I bought the book [Gary Goldschneider’s The Secret Language of Birthdays, which inspired the project] over twenty years ago, because I liked it so much. It’s great to see Camila and her team combine this idea with photography to bring the book to life—and to add personal stories to each day. It’s an ambitious project, and I can’t wait to see when it all comes together!”
Andy Yang, CEO of 500px

Joining us were our two content editors Natta Summerky and Janet Kwan, who captured some behind-the-scenes shots.

“Photographing behind the scenes for the Birthday Book Project gave me the chance to be a fly on the wall and tell a story differently. Instead of focusing on the subject, I was able to show the entire scene, from the subjects to the camera crew. I also felt like I got to know our subjects even though I wasn’t interacting with them directly. Being behind the scenes allowed me to create freely through new perspectives.”
—Janet Kwan, 500px Content Editor

Below, Camila takes us through her own thoughts and stories about her portrait shoot. Read on to see how an ambitious concept and various players in a portrait photo shoot all come together, and get inspired to start your own photo project!

“When I first spoke to Andy, it was obvious to me that family is a huge part of his life. He spoke fondly of his wife and kids and I knew that the photo needed to somehow include them. Since the girls were super excited to be outdoors, running around and playing, it made sense to me to capture something that incorporated that.”

Birthday book project by Janet Kwan on 500px.com

“An important part of the project is asking all subjects about their memories and experiences connected to their birthdays. That is how we connect all participants and are able to find differences and similarities between them, their cultures and traditions.”

Untitled by Natta Summerky on 500px.com

“Here we see Andy answering those questions while our team captures the footage.”

Birthday book project by Janet Kwan on 500px.com

“For each subject I photograph, I want to know more about them, their story, what drives them and where they are at in their life in that given moment in time. Andy spoke fondly about his family when we first connected. When I arrived at his home and saw this huge mural with his kids drawings, I had to ask more about it. I was fascinated by the reward chart that he is pointing at. Every time his daughter Reagan does something nice, she gets a “star” and when she completes a section of the chart, she gets a reward.”

Untitled by Natta Summerky on 500px.com

Birthday book project by Janet Kwan on 500px.com

“From the beginning I knew I wanted to include his family in the picture, so the challenge was to shoot in a way that the focus was on him but the family was still a part of it. We tried a few different things. This was the beginning of the shoot when I was getting a feeling for their level of comfort and how the girls would respond to being photographed. It was fun trying to get them all to “candidly pose” especially with the two cutest princesses dying to run around in their scooters.”

Birthday book project by Janet Kwan on 500px.com

“I love this photo because it gives the viewer an insight of what went on that afternoon. Kids are so much fun to work with, and so unexpected. We played a game where they had to run towards mom, and I was trying to capture the action from the left side of this shot.”

Untitled by Natta Summerky on 500px.com

“Before ending the session I decided to try one more angle, a little different than my original idea. Here I am directing Andy and his family.”

Untitled by Natta Summerky on 500px.com

“The next photo you see a different angle, with me and the Leo (our videographer), shooting from the right of the frame.”

And here is the final result of the shoot—the photo of Andy Yang that will make it into the book as the January 4th birthday…

Andy Yang by Camila Gargantini on 500px.com

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

To read Camila’s interview with her portrait subject Andy, she wrote up this blog post.

To learn more about The Birthday Book Project, visit the official website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.