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The enlightening reason why this man has taken a photo of himself every day for 30 years

Karl Baden is a professor in Boston College's art and film department, and every day for the last 30 years he's taken a photo of himself.

Karl Baden
Karl Baden stands in front of an installation of his images.

These photos definitely aren't your typical selfies; they're well-thought-out and calculated. The lighting, his expression, the backdrop, the camera settings — they're all the same. They’ve remained that way throughout the years.

That's because Baden's hopes are very distinct. He wants to explore mortality, obsession, incremental change and the idea of — in lieu of being perfect — being human.

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“We all know that things happen when we age,” Baden, 64, told TODAY. “And the idea of trying to document it, just day by day, was interesting to me.” (He did miss one day, back in 1991, because he forgot to take a picture of himself.)

Karl Baden
The photo on the left is the very first image that Baden took, in February 1987. The photo on the right is the most up-to-date picture that was available on his blog.

Any person checking out the project on his website would surely expect to see him age drastically over the course of the 11,000 photos he's taken, but that's not really the case. It becomes really noticeable only when you compare the first series of photos and the most recent series of photos.

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“It’s completely giving and completely hidden at the same time,” said Baden. “It’s there, but you can’t see it.”

Karl Baden
Some of Baden's photos in his project.

One of the more interesting aspects of the project arose when he realized that many of his students were young enough to have been born after he started it. It's turned the project into a collaboration.

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“I gave everybody a file of the photo that had been taken of my face on the day they were born,” explained Baden. “Now they have to mess around with it in Photoshop, but it has to be in some way related to the way the day they were born.”

Karl Baden
This person was a student who integrated Baden's photo into their daily life by putting it above their espresso machine.

He even found a way to take that beyond the classroom. During one of his shows, he made a print of each image and displayed them according to date. Then, as people purchased the prints, he asked them to email him with their reasoning behind the date they’d chosen. He also asked them to send him a photo of where the picture had ended up.

The answers ranged from hilarious to somber.

Karl Baden
"The pictures are still in the front inside pocket of the sport jacket that I wore to your opening... and still in the same envelope."

“Because of this, I realized that there’s another component of this project, which is that it has nothing to do with my face really, but the date,” said Baden. “It connects us on that day.”

In the end, Baden realized that the project captured more than just the subtle changes to his face.

Courtesy of Karl Baden
"Oct. 27, 1989 - The day my family came to America." "Nov. 9, 1989 - The day the Berlin Wall came down." "The pictures are in a box of special stuff."

“It’s all just about being human and paying attention,” said Baden.

The most powerful takeaway from his work? Despite the fact that there are changes and mistakes, he's persisted.

“I can’t say that I embrace (the changes), but I don’t stop the process because they happen.”

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