Musings on Photography

Beyond SoFoBoMo

Posted in art is a verb, books, process, Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on August 8, 2009


The idea for SoFoBoMo was shamelessly stolen from NaNoWriMo. As we work out plans for SoFoBoMo 2010 and beyond, we’re continuing to look to the clever and creative folks at the Office of Letters and Light (the non-profit that was formed for NaNoWriMo).

One interesting thing they’ve done is to have a laptop loaner program, which lends laptops to folks who can’t afford them. I guess the analog for SoFoBoMo would be a camera/laptop loaner program. That’s out of our reach for right now.

They’ve also got spin-off events, like Script Frenzy (“30 days. 100 pages. April. Are you in?”) in which participants write a script or screenplay in one month. That sounds so cool, I might give it a shot next April.

But all that’s got me thinking about what might lie beyond SoFoBoMo. I’m not talking about ending SoFoBoMo, I’m talking about what *else* we might do. We’re a long way from being ready to try to do more than SoFoBoMo. But it’s never to early to ponder, and so that’s what I’ve been doing.

Here are a couple of ideas:

The Brandenburg Challenge

This is inspired by Jim Brandenburg’s amazing book Chased by the Light. You’ve got three months. Create a PDF book containing one image made each day in that period. The catch: you must make EXACTLY one exposure per day. That means that you get up each morning, and during the day, you let the shutter go exactly one time. The image you get is the image that goes in the book. No retakes. No bracketing. No skipping days.

Like SoFoBoMo, this is a challenge that scales according to your expectation. It could be trivially easy. It could be monstrously difficult. It all depends on your expectations of what your book will be like.

The Long Look

One of the things people say when they dismiss SoFoBoMo is that it’s not possible to do a good book in a month.

I don’t agree with that view (just look at how many outstanding books there are), but they do have a point: the one month time limit constrains what you can do. SoFoBoMo is an exercise in focus – it takes focus to make the photos, lay out the book, and get it all done in a month.

So the Long Look is the opposite challenge. It’s not about compressed time frames, deadlines as motivation, or brief but laser intensity.

The challenge: you’ve got ten years. Do a book with photographs made, at least one per month, on a single subject. Examples: one photo per month of ten years of your child’s life. One photo per month, taken from your front door. One photo per month, taken at the same street corner and aiming the camera the same way. One photo per month of everyone in your family all together.

My first blush reaction was “Oh, that’s easy”. My second reaction to this idea was “oh, crikey, that’s hard.”

It’s all about discipline over a decade. It will probably span multiple cameras. If you do it with film, what are you going to do if film goes away during the decade? If you do it digitally, you’re propagating the project across changes in computers, software, cameras. And those are just the technical challenges.

If SoFoBoMo is a sprint, this is running a marathon.

4 Responses

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  1. Ove said, on August 9, 2009 at 3:51 am

    I liked the Brandenburger theme, that would be an incredibly difficult task. One shot per day. You really aught to get it right and not rush away. Not if you’re in my shoes, anyway. Others might think this is as simple as it can be.

    The Long Look challenge, when challenged to cover some ten years, that’s ultra, not marathon. Insane. 🙂

  2. Anita Jesse said, on August 9, 2009 at 10:29 am

    SoFoBoMo appeals to many of us with a slightly nutty side, but the The Brandenburg Challenge is over the top. This pondering thing may be getting a little out of hand. Seriously, what a wonderful collection of ideas to consider. Please don’t stop musing.

  3. Rusty said, on August 9, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    To explore this (picture a day from the same viewpoint)watch the film “Smoke” staring Harvey Keitel, Forest Whitaker and others. Recommended.

  4. Paul said, on August 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I really like The Brandenburg Challenge. I may have to try it. Of course, I’d want to take more than one picture on certain days, but I’d have to make a commitment that, for example, the first should would always be my one shot … no going back, or the last shot and there would need to be two hours in between, or whatever. It sounds like a great challenge! Something to think about. Great ideas, Paul.

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