Musings on Photography

SoFoBoMo Narrow

Posted in art is a verb, process, Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on April 17, 2008

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As SoFoBoMo continues, I’m starting to notice some interesting changes in my day to day photographic process. One change that’s become apparent is that when I head down into the valley with the camera, I no longer have that aching decision when I get to town – turn north or south? Before I started this project, I pretty much flipped a coin, and then just followed my nose. But there was always the nagging feeling that the really good stuff was somewhere else in the valley, and I was missing it.

But with this project, wherever Kodak and I are on any particular day – that’s by definition where the photos are. I can’t be in the wrong place, except in the limited sense that I don’t get the diversity of photos I’d like.

So I read with interest this post of Steve Durbin’s, on Art and Perception. The whole post is interesting, but the part that rang my synchronicity bell was this:

Which leads me to think about the benefits of narrowing one’s focus, one’s effort. The nature of a project is such a focusing, but I frequently wonder if I don’t have too many projects in hand. They often conflict; I can’t do more than one thing at a time, and the time is so limited. Do you also feel pulled in too many directions artistically? Or, on the contrary, do you want to broaden your scope?

I think that for the most part, doing SoFoBoMo amounts to some sort of narrowing of focus. Reading the blogs of the various participants, I certainly notice that most folks have set aside other projects and are focusing fairly intently on SoFoBoMo.

Interesting, I think. For some folks, SoFoBoMo has been taking their regular process, adding in some book stuff, and then compressing the result into one month. And others seem to have branched out and taken a fling at a process that’s quite a bit different from what they usually do.

There’s no right way or wrong way to do SoFoBoMo. Reading the pipe that Gordon McGregor set up, one of the things that both surprises and pleases me is that way that different people seem to be learning such different stuff from their participation. When I first read about NaNoWriMo and NaSoAlMo, I certainly didn’t have even an inkling of some of the stuff people would learn.

And the interesting thing is that so far, most of us are not even close to completing the book. Whatever we’ve learned is a side effect of process, and not part of the intended outcome. One of my continuing fascinations has been that so often, we get the best final result when we focus on process and not outcome – a fact that I no longer find surprising but continue to find counter-intuitive.

4 Responses

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  1. Charlie H said, on April 17, 2008 at 11:45 am

    It looks to me like if nothing else good results from the project, Kodak will have greatly enjoyed your efforts. ch

  2. Gordon McGregor said, on April 17, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Whatever we’ve learned is a side effect of process, and not part of the intended outcome.

    That’s true and a big part of my 30 second elevator pitch for SoFoBoMo. That we’ll learn all the things that go into finishing up the product, because we’ll actually get to the point of trying them out, rather than being stuck procrastinating back at the ‘my pictures aren’t good enough’ stage.

    But, all these side effects of the process and things we are learning from the process are still driven by the underlying ‘product’ of the book we are reaching towards. That’s the motivating factor.

    This dovetails with Doug Stockdale’s blog posts about projects as photography with a purpose, rather than just photography for its own sake. It also ties in with the notion I had of making it purely about the process and deliberately letting go of the final, or intermediate, product, by deleting the images sight unseen. I feel a bit concerned that what was an idle thought experiment has people saying ‘I’ll try that!’

  3. Amy Sakurai said, on April 17, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    I feel a bit concerned that what was an idle thought experiment has people saying ‘I’ll try that!’

    Really? Someone is actually serious about doing the experiment? Inconceivable!

  4. Anita Jesse said, on April 17, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    In my own little private world, I have showered you with all sorts of awards and nicknames lately. It’s time for additional recognition. The comment that most participants “are focusing fairly intently on SoFoBoMo” is charming understatement at its best. “Obsessed” would apply to a couple of us—yours truly included in that list.

    Moreover, I confess to attributing to you a crystal-clear understanding of exactly what we were all in for in terms of the learning along the way. I never would have anticipated your surprise. See, even this part of the experience is a learning process.


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