Musings on Photography

Too Much

Posted in Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on June 13, 2009


With the photos of the Paramount Theatre and Jones Playhouse, I discovered, rather to my surprise, that I had LOTS of photos to include in my SoFoBoMo book. Too many photos, in fact. In order to cut the book down to some reasonable size that I’d have a hope of getting under the 15MB limit, I’d have to cut an awful lot of photos.

That’s ok. I whacked the book in half – and now I have TWO sofobomo books. I did this, and I was feeling pretty chuffed. The stuff from the first two theatres I’d photographed had been edited down pretty heavily, and at around 22-25 photos each, the book was just about the right size. I tweaked some text, rubbed the corners with a rag moistened with spit to shine it up a bit, and called it done. Whew – one book finished. The pressure was off.

This morning, I sat down to edit the second book, aka Part II. I’m scrolling through page after page of photos, and it suddenly occurs to me that I still have way too many photos. There I was, editing out photos I really liked, because I was again aiming for 20-25 photos of each theater. Now that’s an arbitrary goal, and I can change the goal as I please, but as a first cut I wanted to aim at that for a host of reasons, some of which I’d have trouble articulating. My son once commented that “Editing something you’ve written is hard, because every time you cut a sentence, it feels like you’re killing your own children.” That’s pretty close to how I felt.

I can see the book getting better, but it sure hurts to cut some of those photos. It’s not that they don’t belong, it’s that I finally have a sense of where I want the book to go, and these fine photos are not pushing that direction. It’s a weird feeling.

9 Responses

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  1. Martin Doonan said, on June 13, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    I’ve been trying editing from the other direction. Instead of a process of removing those that don’t fit, I’ve been adding those that tell the story I want. Once the story is told, I stop.
    Psychologically it seems more positive and I actually find it harder to find enough to use.

  2. Paul Butzi said, on June 13, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    That’s an excellent way to proceed, but it works only if you know the story you’re telling before you start editing.

    You’re telling a story, and it makes sense to work additively.

    What I’d doing is more like discovering the story that the pictures tell. It can only be done subtractively, and at least in my case, the first pass through is to eliminate duplicates or near duplicates. As I go along, each cut makes the story stand out a bit more clearly. The question for me is not adding things until the story is told, it’s a question of eliminating redundancy, then pruning away bits of the complete story to either leave a compelling substory, or until I’ve managed to make it fit in the desired space.

    Of course, one way to work would be to have it both ways – do the subtractive process to figure out where it seems to be going. Then clear the deck and work additively. I may give that a try.

  3. Michael said, on June 13, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Your theater portfolio looks like it was tailormade for “Lenswork”. Is a submission in the works?

  4. Paul Butzi said, on June 13, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Your theater portfolio looks like it was tailormade for “Lenswork”. Is a submission in the works?

    Interesting that you should say that, I’d not considered it at all. No, I don’t have a submission in the works. I’ve no reason to NOT submit the work, it’s just that it never even occurred to me.

    I can see, though, how it fits into the Lenswork aesthetic. Well, sort of. I expect it has zero chance even if submitted – I’ve seen work that I know was submitted and rejected that I thought was far stronger than the theatre stuff.

    Maybe after I’ve worked on this tack for another two years and produced a polished book I’d think about submitting it. As it stands now, it’s really very much a work in progress. And that’s how I like it, truth be told.

  5. Ove said, on June 14, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I know I previously said that MANY pictures would not be an issue if the story is good. If you have many similar pictures, but from different theatres, only adding a few pictures more per theatre would make up a book for each one of them. Or separate chapters, if no more are added. Too similar chapters would then be the obvious problem to try to avoid. I hope you do find the essence in what you have photographed, because with this at hand, the pictures to exclude will come naturally.

  6. Alex Brikoff said, on June 14, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I, too, was faced with a similar dilemma when editing my book a few weeks ago. The first week was spent photographing and then I realized that I had about three hundred too many images (is THAT sort of dilemma ever really possible?). My goal was to have enough images of each illusion that Tina performed so that if you were to leaf through each of the chapters quickly, the illusion would actually appear in a similar manner as an old time “flicker” movie. It’s an interesting idea I had when I was originally planning the book and, hopefully, I pulled it off successfully.

  7. Doug Plummer said, on June 14, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    You know, this sounds like an ambitious project that needs more time to cook, at a much lower temperature. I hear you in that energetic, all-nighter SoFoBoMo mode, I would distrust my own decision making process in such a pressure cooker. There’s a reason no best sellers have emerged from NaNoWriMo. I suspect any feelings you’re having about the scale and superabundance of imagery are going to change as you get back to a sufficiently leisurely pace. I would expect you’ll begin to uncover the deeper layers in the work that will require a different sequential solution.

  8. Paul Butzi said, on June 14, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Doug, I realized about a day after we photographed the first theater that as far as I was concerned the project term ran out far, far past the 31 days for SoFoBoMo. My intent from the moment I decided to pursue this as a SoFoBoMo thing was that I’d do the book (and now books) and not much worry about them – just do them, steal the momentum they generate, and try to keep moving on.

    I expect you’re right – my perceptions of all this will change over the next week as I spin down the SoFoBoMo thing and start staring a much longer term project in the face. A large part of that, I suspect, will be visiting the locations more than once.

  9. Martin Doonan said, on June 15, 2009 at 1:22 am

    I was thinking last night (as I stewed in the all-nighter pressure-cooker) that soFoBoMo is an ideal way to test whether ideas like this can hang together as a longer project and if others would respond positively. From last year’s effort I’ve had one long-term project develop that may take me a decade to complete satisfactorily. I can see another possibility coming out of this year. Without the prompt of this challenge, however, those ideas would never have nucleated, let alone crystallised.

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