Musings on Photography

One step back, two steps forward

Posted in Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on February 11, 2008

After going through Holleley’s Book Design and Publishing, my brain was in that fevered state where it just spins from possibility to possibility, and doesn’t make any progress. Call it paralysis in the face of information overload, if you like.

Now, I’d really like to start SoFoBoMo in some state of reasonable preparation (which is NOT, as some people insist, the same as being The World’s Most Organized SoFoBoMo-er.) That’s because the prospect of instigating the SoFoBoMo thing and then being one of the people who doesn’t actually finish a book fills me with the sort of existential dread that wakes you in the small hours and torments you with visions of absolute humiliation. Or something.

To borrow a phrase from Arlo, “you may be in a similar situtation, and if you find yourself in a situation like that there’s only one thing you can do…” And in situations like this, I don’t think singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out is going to do the trick.

No, the one thing that you can do when your brain is overloaded and spinning and won’t come to rest is this: do something concrete. This will seem hard, because no matter what you do, it’s going to conflict with some of the swirling chaos of confused ideas boiling in your brain. Nevertheless, the solution is to do SOMETHING, even if (and perhaps especially if) you know it’s wrong. Putting down SOME idea in a concrete form gives you something to work with. It makes the compromises visible and evident, and you can then proceed to bend this concrete thing, twist it and see what happens if you do this or that. This making of a concrete thing when you’re in this confused state is a frustrating, hair tearing and anguished profane oaths sort of thing. The only way out is through. I’m proud to be able to say that I did not bang my head against the wall despite being sorely tempted several times. No head sized dents were made in the making of this first maquette.

Now, the odds are good that whatever concrete thing you do while you’re working your way out of the confusion will not be very good. That’s ok. The goal here is not to get good work done, it’s to figure out what good work would look like.

With this in mind, yesterday I sat down, took out the conceptual machete, and whacked out a book of photos by shamelessly stealing content from my website – photos from my Pacific Coast portfolio, and the text just lifted straight from the web page. This let me concentrate on presentation issues (e.g. “How the heck do I center things? I’ve forgotten AGAIN!”) instead of content issue. The only content massaging I did was to size and sharpen the photos so that they’d fit onto a 8.25″x8.25″ page.

So now I’ve got a book, laid out with Adobe InDesign CS3. There’s one file for the front matter, and another file for the body, and if I were to add a colophon there would be another file for the back matter, too. The files are all bound up using InDesign’s ‘book’ feature, and I managed to actually print off a two sided maquette that lets me see how the text ends up on one side and the photo on the other, and I can leaf through the pages and see what the spreads look like. And, furthermore, I can crank out a PDF that not only contains all the pages, but for all the pages laid out as spreads, the entire spread shows in the Acrobat reader. I’m sure that someone who actually knew something about book design would look at what I’ve done and immediately lose major muscle control because of the hysterical laughter, but while this effort might not qualify as taking a ride on the clue bus, it’s good enough for me to claim that I’ve purchased a ticket for the clue bus ride that I need, and that I’ve figured out where the nearest bus stop is.

So, progress of a sort. SoFoBoMo starts in 50 days.

2 Responses

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  1. Rachel said, on February 11, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I all of a sudden realized that, although I have InDesign CS3 on my work computer, and use it everyday, I have no clue about these book things you are mentioning. Perhaps that is something I should figure out myself in the next 50 days. 😐

    I appreciate you sharing your progress, because reading about it reminds me I should be thinking about this stuff, too. πŸ™‚

  2. Joe Reifer said, on February 11, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Glad you had the same reaction to Holleley’s book that I did. Here are the two most important lessons that I hope aren’t lost on SoFoBoMo’ers (did I just invent a new term?):

    1. What is the story? Tell me the story in a paragraph. Tell me the story in 2 sentences. How about 1 sentence?
    2. Make prints. Make prints and put them on the floor. Pin them to the wall. Stare at them. Move them around. Call it a maquette if you want (it’s French!). Get physical. InDesign is good. Making prints is better.



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