I have these recurring visions of someone viewing my book and asking, “Why did you make this book? What is it about.” “Because a bunch of other people signed up for a a challenge and I thought I would give it a go” isn’t an acceptable answer. That’s what has had me stewing. Okay, I’m making a photo book. What is it about? Will I produce a collection of thirty-five mediocre images that collectively scream—these photographs were taken for no other reason than to get to the magic number of thirty-five. For at least a week, I felt the title of my book should be “Sharp Images of Fuzzy Concepts”, because I was haunted by the famous Ansel Adams quote. Can I clearly define what this book is about—why it should be made? Am I clear enough about what I want to say? And, just as importantly, can I say it well?
While Paul Butzi has laid claim to “the stupidest idea ever beheld”, I may have to challenge him on that when all is said and done. After much agonizing, I have committed to a theme that has some emotional heat for me; now, I wonder whether I can come close to making pictures that will convey some of the very feelings that have produced the heat. My subject is saying goodbye to a place that has been my home for twenty years. I will make my thirty-five pictures within a radius of about five miles of our home here in the San Fernando Valley in California. This is the very small world where I spend most of my time—our house, the yard, the barn area where the horses are stabled a couple of miles away, and an area along the Little Tujunga Wash, between the stable and our house. So, I finally know what I want to photograph and why. Now, comes the issue of successful execution. Can I bring a viewer into my simple little universe—the places where I spend, by far, most of my time—and put across some of the feelings of melancholy I am already experiencing at the prospect of leaving it behind? Or, will the passion be strong, yet the craft weak?
I confess that I had not wanted to immerse myself in these feelings about another ending. But, here I am plunging into the abyss. There is no easy way out of this. The feelings will supply the energy and inform the work. To deny the feelings is to turn off the energy supply. Best to not snuff out the flame. Predictably, I will waste some time trying to worm my way out of the pain that goes with the experience and rely on the “understanding” of purpose to get the job done. Nope. It doesn’t work that way. Red Smith’s observation on the ease of writing included in William Bronaugh’s book, “Just Open a Vein” says it all. “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” If we set out to create—regardless of the medium—there is no getting around the struggle. What SoFoBoMo amounts to is that a whole gang of us have elected to—if I may paraphrase Red Smith—pick up a camera and open a vein. I suppose the only sensible course is to take comfort in the observation made by more than one participant that it won't last forever. They are right, of course. A month will fly by. No, wait. That last part isn't comforting, at all.