Musings on Photography


Posted in process by Paul Butzi on July 20, 2008

 Imgs 010705-8A-500
For years, I was a member of a group I started that was called the Monday Night Group. The group met every other Monday night to review new work. It was a great thing for me. When I was participating, I got a lot of great feedback about prints – lots of suggestions about how to fine tune individual prints.

That is, individual prints were the focus of the group, and the focus of the feedback. That’s a good thing, but in the time since I stopped attending the Monday Night Group, my interests have drifted somewhat. I’m still interested in prints, but but my focus has shifted from singular to plural. That is, I’m interested in bodies of work that extend beyond single prints. Collections of prints, sequences of prints, groups of prints.

In that usual synchronistic way that things work, as I was thinking about this, I got to have lunch with a friend of mine, who’s been pondering what he’s been getting out of his participation in a print review group. And it turns out that he, too, is more interested in feedback at the project level rather than feedback at the print level.

So I’ve been spending time lately thinking about ways to get feedback at the project level. Another review group, with periodic meetings? Maybe it’s the case that it’s not quite so important to get to view prints, and more important to view the sequences and thus it might be done online. There are a number of photographers whose work I follow online, and it does seem like that’s not an unreasonable way to get a feel for a body of work as it slowly evolves over time.

There’s a lot to think about there. But I really want feedback at a higher level than prints. I want it a lot.

11 Responses

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  1. Anita Jesse said, on July 20, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Pretty cheeky of me to say so, but…I would hope that this group would lend itself to eventually making public some of those projects or sequences. Not for review by the outside viewers, but to serve as example and inspiration, I’m sure. If the project is done online, might that be possible? Anyway, cheeky, as I said, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

  2. Ed Richards said, on July 20, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Digital books might be a good way to do this. The quid pro quo from you is that if you want meaningful feedback at the project level, you will have to spend some time and organize the prints to show them. I think organization is key meta info for project pictures.

  3. Andreas Manessinger said, on July 21, 2008 at 12:50 am

    Books are one nice form of organization, that’s right, but I doubt that producing books alone would be sufficient to induce a discussion process. OK, I got very late to the party, but did anybody else get any work-related feedback during SoFoBoMo? Process feedback, yes, but not on the content. Am I wrong?

    I think, in order to make something like this happen, we would need a virtual place, a program (Hey, what about a Manifesto? Does that sound pompous??) and a critical mass of participants.

    Let’s have a look at participants first. You can’t achieve anything in this regard without other people, because that’s the whole point. The problem is to get through to the right people, and the even bigger problem is to hold them. A forum may be the right place, and one could have the idea of creating a new one and let people in only on invitation. Uhmm … could work, but I suppose people would lose interest before things could ever get interesting. That’s the problem of critical mass. Too few participants and nothing interesting happens.

    The other side of the coin are too many participants. Look at Post an image there. You’ll be lucky to get seen, so many images get posted. Worse with Flickr. Thus, too many people involved, and the whole thing can’t be anything but trivial.

    Sites like The Radiant Vista are somewhere in the middle. Even at their size it’s sometimes frustrating, because it may take days to get feedback, but it’s about the size that I mean. I guess such a site would need participants to know each other.

    Now the place. For all means I would suggest to participate in another site’s infrastructure, again probably The Radiant Vista. I suppose they would be open to such a proposition, and they themselves could benefit. This way you would get a highly focused crowd for free. Not necessarily all at your level, for sure not all people you would invite to a private forum, but certainly a critical mass.

    And the program? Hard to tell. To keep people interested, you may need something like cooperative competition, something like SoFoBoMo was, but it’s not clear how the concept of critique should come in. There would have to be some kind of ritualized presentation, maybe in a form similar to Craig Tanner’s Daily Critiques, but also some form of ritualized feedback. In Craig’s case it’s clear. He is the guy who gives critique, and he presents and critiques other people’s work. Here we need something different: a photographer presenting own work (maybe really in form of video??), and a crowd giving feedback. The art would be to make giving feedback as simple and rewarding as possible. OK, enough said. Obviously I’m interested 🙂

  4. rvewong said, on July 21, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Single pictures don’t cut the mustard for me either. I think it’s because we are both “mature”. Gives a different perspective on life and meaning.

    Pretty much all my posts are themed with a few pictures. And every now and again I put together a much more involved themed project.

    I wish more people would do the same. There are so many reasons why this themed thing has merit that I can’t list them all. Perhaps one of the big ones is it allows the viewer a sort of virtual experience along side the possibility and the opportunity to go and experience the physical even if it is only wishful thinking.

    Can’t wait for you to show us a themed project Paul…..

  5. Paul Butzi said, on July 21, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I think it’s because we are both “mature”. Gives a different perspective on life and meaning.

    That extremely loud, raucous noise you just heard was my friends, laughing hysterically at the idea that I am ‘mature’.

    While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m not so sure it’s a matter of maturity as much as a matter of where you are in the cycle of a repeating process. That is, I suspect that these ebb and flow in regular cycles.

  6. rvewong said, on July 21, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Then, it must be that I am older than you Paul, or at least my bones tell me that most days.

    The desire for “sequences” could have something to do with slowing down and a desire to explore in a more thorough way, not necessarily a sign of maturity, but the slowing down bit sure is.

  7. Bryan Willman said, on July 22, 2008 at 7:54 am

    I think it is more like “short stories” versus “novels” or “technical articles” versus “encyclopedia’s”.

    It’s not a “mature” thing, it’s a “which way do I want to work now” thing.

    (The group Paul speaks of still meets, and discussions about sets of imagines, and ordering, take up ever more time….)

  8. Doug Stockdale said, on July 22, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    I like the idea, as I seem to be very interested in working on projects and series as of late.

    I get some feedback from my blog for related project images, but that does not apply to the printed images. But I get very little feedback regarding an on-going project as a whole or sequencing of the images, etc. Kinda of like working in a vacuum, and I am not so sure about the virtual thing either, as I get enough of that already.

  9. Robert Hoehne said, on July 23, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    I made a comment here,, and now read a blog entry that mirrors my feelings. How and where can a person get involved in this type of meeting?
    The one thing I did not get from sofobomo is whether my work presented my view the way I wanted it to, how could I of presented the work better?

  10. Martin Doonan said, on July 25, 2008 at 7:37 am

    It just struck me that there is a way that one could combine the online with the portfolio idea – have a review collective that shared pdfs of groups of work. Whilst it wouldn’t get to the printing thing, it would be a way to bring developing projects togetehr as a whole. SoFoBoMo has taught me that there is minimal effort in putting out a decent pdf just of images, that would work nicely with this idea.

  11. latoga said, on August 17, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Sounds like an opportunity to branch off SoFoBoMo to a invite only forum where larger work can be shared and critical reviews can be posted. By making it an invite only, you can ensure higher quality reviews at the risk of limiting the diversity of the reviews. Obviously, the in person reviews are also valuable…so once you get a large enough mass you could do monthly local reviews in person?

    I love this idea, just wish I had more time to work on executing it! Right now FocalPower and day job is taking most of my time.

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