Musings on Photography

Day 9 – Process

Posted in process, Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on April 9, 2008

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Yesterday afternoon I cranked through a bunch of rough photoshop treatments of a fair number of the images I’ve gotten so far for my SoFoBoMo project, and I went a step further and cranked out a pile of 10×15 on 14×17 prints – my usual size. These aren’t fine prints, they aren’t anything but something I can handle and put on the wall.

As I was going through the process with those images, I felt pretty depressed about the whole thing. Looking at the prints, I felt better. And I started out this morning, read the comments readers have left on the blog here, and started to feel that familiar tug in my head – the one that says “Don’t look at it that way. Look at it this way”. All of the comments everyone’s left has been super helpful in helping me get this stuff to gel in my head, and I really appreciate them.

Anyway, after all that I started in this morning looking at the images in a fresh light. “Not so good, but also not so bad”, I thought. But the big thing is that I feel that although I can’t quite articulate the direction I’m starting to get an inkling of where things are going, and I’m not unhappy with that direction. Part of the answer has been that I need to do what I almost always do, which is make a lot of photos, and then look at them and try to pick out the signal from the noise, and then go back and make a lot of photos afterwards. I’m never any good at setting the direction for things as an agenda, and I can’t go out and photograph with the intent that I’m going to do something in particular and have it work.

But I can look at the photos, especially real physical prints, and sort of pick up a thread. Then when I go back out into the field, it’s a matter not so much of having that thread in mind while I’m making more photographs as it is having identified it. It’s not a conscious thing. If I try to make it conscious it doesn’t seem to work. It’s not a matter of picking out the good photographs and then deciding “Right. I’ll go make a bunch more like these.” because if I do that, I get just that – a new crop of photos just like the old ones. It’s more a matter of looking at the photographs that help me pick out a trend, and then going out and making the next photographs in that trend. It’s evolutionary. I have to figure it out as I go along, and the main technique is to make a lot of photographs and then stare at them until I get an inkling of what’s going on, and then make some more photographs and stare at them. I’m right back to photography as a way to figure things out.

Everyone has a different process, and that’s all fine. I’m not saying everyone ought to work this way. All I can do is say “Here’s what works for me.”

5 Responses

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  1. Andrew said, on April 9, 2008 at 10:55 am

    This SoFoMoBo is a big task! Seems like it has to evolve organically during the month and see the story come into focus and evolve it once you do or just shoot and shoot and shoot and see what what patterns you ended up with in the end and tell the story from that.

    Either way is a very interesting exercise. Ups and downs seem natural.

  2. julie o'donnell said, on April 9, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    A very interesting insight into your process, and it sounds like you do indeed have a process, however not-conscious it may actually be.

    I’m trying to pretent SoFoBoMo isn’t happening… all of sudden it hit April and I’m drawing a huge photographic blank. Uh oh.

  3. Amy said, on April 9, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I am appreciating reading your SoFoBoMo process. It might sound odd but it makes me feel better about my own thought processes and my own stops and starts.

  4. Pam Renovato said, on April 9, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    I always love to hear about the process, also. My own though processes are like a library with all the books on the floor in a big pile.

  5. Anita Jesse said, on April 10, 2008 at 11:25 am

    I love the story in the photo—Kodak searching for the scent of critters and other fascinating odors that make canines deliriously happy, while Paul searches for his mojo. Kodak’s is a simple life. Paul, on the other hand, not only handles his own project, but teaches, bares his soul, and scares the bejesus out of those of us who are faint of heart by posting contact sheets! Thanks again, Paul, for the inspiring challenge.


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