Documenting her journey to happiness


Hannah Anderson

Every day, student Maddie Studnicka scrolls through her phone to figure out which picture she will post before writing a caption that either describes the subject or how she is feeling that day. Her pictures normally get around 70 likes, but Studnicka says that she cares more about her content than the amount of followers and likes she receives.

Maddie Studnicka uses Instagram to improve her photography and express herself

It’s Friday night, and the sidelines of Dickinson Field are full of photographers from Hinsdale Central’s El Diablo yearbook and Devil’s Advocate magazine staffs, hoping to capture amazing shots of the varsity football game against Lyons Township. Among them is pommer Maddie Studnicka, who uses every break from performing to snap pictures with her Canon T5i Rebel. Though Studnicka is a contributor to El Diablo, many of her photos actually end up on her Instagram photography account (@365daystohappy) that has become an online journal of her thoughts about life and happiness.

Studnicka made her account right after she received her first professional camera for Christmas in 2014, and it started as a simple way for her to pursue her passion of photography by posting every day. However, it achieved a deeper purpose when Studnicka started writing longer captions sharing her feelings on school, activities, and even her mental state.

“For the past two years I’ve had a really rough time with stress and family problems, like there’s been a lot of sadness in my life. So, I wanted something originally to try to tell myself to be more happy,” said Studnicka, sophomore. “And it’s kind of evolved into its own kind of thing where it’s the dichotomy of sometimes having a really great day and sometimes having a really bad day, but still pushing through it, still documenting that because it still happens.”

The raw emotion featured in the captions of her photos has grabbed the attention of hundreds, including friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. At first Studnicka chose to remain anonymous, but when more and more people started figuring out it was her, she revealed herself. The account was surprising to some of her friends, but as they witnessed the good it was doing for her and others, they were very supportive.

“[The account] is really inspiring and extremely relatable,” said sophomore Allison Schaefer, one of Studnicka’s best friends. “I feel like last year she was always pushing herself too hard and trying to be absolutely perfect. I think this account gave her a lot of support mentally and physically, by setting goals and motivating herself.”

Even without the heartfelt captions, Studnicka prides herself on bringing a new perspective to the subjects she photographs, even if it means taking hundreds of photos to find the right shot. When it comes to her favorite subject, nature, she can be seen lying on the ground or standing on her tiptoes to find a new angle.

“My biggest goal in photography is to try and capture an image that people don’t usually see, to try and capture from angles that people usually don’t see, and to capture something that not a lot of people would expect to see,” Studnicka said. “I try and take pictures of what I think is beautiful in an attempt to make other people see the beauty in it.”

Studnicka has gained more than 400 followers since launching her account, and many have been asking her to continue posting even after her 365 days are up on Jan. 1, 2016. However, it’s her decision, of course.

“Everyone keeps asking me, and I honestly have no idea,” Studnicka said. “I think that I might continue going, like I still have a lot of photos, but I don’t really know at this point. I want to, to be honest. I really want to.”