Thursday, April 17, 2008

SoFoBoMo and the Project Thing

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I decided to jot down some notes about my struggle with the concept of and the mastering of this project business. Warning: rambling alert issued to all readers. First, these notes may shed some light on my gushing enthusiasm for every morsel of information anyone shares regarding this journey. Second, maybe a confession of my lack of sophistication regarding projects will help some other newbie to feel less lonely and lost. Although, I admit that most newbies probably had better sense than to jump into the deep end of the pool with a lot of seasoned experts and very smart folks.

I stumbled into this photography thing very recently when The Husband made that fateful decision to purchase a small digital camera for snapping pictures while out on endurance rides. From the minute I picked up that cute little Canon A70, I have been reeling as I grappled with the basics about heretofore foreign concepts with strange-to-me names including ISO and aperture. Believe me, for a person who doesn’t learn well from manuals, and has an aversion to math, it has been a lengthy journey. Thank goodness I had no idea that it is a field so friendly to engineer types and software geniuses, and we won’t go into the number who were confidently snapping a brownie when they were three. I might never have experimented with that digital Trojan horse brought into my house had I realized how hopelessly out of my element I would be with the mechanics.

But, experiment I did, and I was immediately hooked. Along the way, I acquired newer and better cameras but throughout the journey, projects wasn’t part of my vocabulary. I simply shot what caught my fancy at a particular moment, or what I thought would help me to learn more. Up until SoFoBoMo, there was only one area in which there was any intellectual examination of purpose or intent behind shooting and those were the occasions on which I was hired to make pictures of some horse owner’s very special companion. From the beginning, that was a natural for me. Because I know a great deal about that particular relationship, I feel charged with an amazing responsibility and plunge into the task inspired by the unique story behind each horse and owner.

In my naiveté, I was blissfully unaware of any need to define and pursue a project outside those occasions when I was hired to tell a story with photographs. I had fed on the purpose and theme that drove the shoot of a horse, with or without owner, because I could connect with the story. But, I hadn’t examined what was feeding individual images other than to notice that certain subjects clearly dominated my pictures. For example, I could easily see that I am really hung up on trees—short trees, tall trees, bare trees, trees with leaves, showy trees, plain trees, lonely trees, trees in bunches—you get the point. But, I never elevated that to the level of being a theme in my work. I just knew I really like trees. Same with clouds—totally indiscriminating in my taste—love ’em all. Oh, and I am sucker for old stuff—buildings, vehicles (especially really old ones like buggies, and wagons, and such), tools. Nostalgia gets me going. I just never thought of these as being project material. Preferences, yes. Themes, huh?

When the SoFoBoMo project came along, I focused on the elements of the challenge I could fully relate to—make lots of photos in a short time (okay, sounds a little like one of our road trips), make a book (good—know something about making books—wrote two of them—of course it took me forever to write each of them and they have no pictures—pooh, beside the point), and the crucial, for me, element of the challenge—facing the fear of putting something out there that I have not spent weeks, maybe even months, refining (boy, do I need to work on that one). In the beginning, I glossed right over the choosing a theme, the project part. I had never had trouble finding something I wanted to photograph, so I decided to sign up and to ignore the project or theme part of it. Like Scarlett, I would “worry about that tomorrow”.

When tomorrow came, all too soon, I went into panic mode. I was determined not to repeat something I had already done—do a photo story on a couple of horses. We had no time to travel what with trying to sell our house and wrap up our LA lives, so that built in theme was out. I knew that a hodgepodge of photos taken here and there, whenever and wherever, without any driving purpose wasn’t going to cut the mustard. I have yet to finish this book and don’t want to count chickens that aren’t even close to hatching, but at least I finally settled on what suffices as a theme for this single project and I am having a blast shooting lots of photos.

Certainly, I won’t imply that I have this project business licked, but because other participants in SoFoBoMo have graciously shared a wealth of information, I am hopeful. I feel increasingly confident that, eventually, I will look back on my struggles with the project concept much as I now view my early tussle with ISO and aperture. Especially if I keep reading and all you folks keep posting.


  1. I'm learning more from you than most anyone else taking part.

  2. My first thought on reading this comment was, "Oh dear, Gordon must have posted this on the wrong site." What a generous comment. I have to admit that I am mystified and a bit stumped, since I feel I know so little, but thank you.

  3. Anita, isn't it great to be involved in a community that is so free with its information and help?!

    Regarding the project business, it's fun and exciting and my mind has made a slight shift and I'm starting to think more in terms of projects and books. How wonderful would it be to come home from every vacation and produce a small book of those great moments. It would be a nice adjunct document to the scrap book!

  4. When I began this blog, it was for therapy. I did it to break some personal barriers. I never dreamed I would find such a marvelously helpful and inspiring community. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make certain I didn't dream up this lovely scenario. For all the jerks in the world, there are some amazingly generous people to balance them out, and I am grateful to have found a group of incredibly talented and smart people who set the standard for generosity.

    Regarding books in the future. I have a feeling the POD industry is going to owe Paul B a commission as they watch their orders increase. I can't imagine now going on one of our road trips without planning a book to celebrate the journey. I don't care if we live out of cardboard boxes for a year, I am itching to get back to Bodie so I can put together a book that indulges my weakness for nostalgia. I did a book once with Shutterfly about a year ago—one of those freebies they periodically offer. It was a very, very simple project—just dropping photos in the provided templates and without the profile Gordon so kindly pointed out. It's not something I show anyone but family. Still, that little dip of a toe in the water and now SoFoBoMo have me thinking about lots and lots of books in my future.


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