581 – SoFoBoMo At Last

May 172008

It’s Friday, I’m sitting on the train, and here is another bicycle portrait. In a comment, Ted Byrne recently asked me to present my images of bicycles in some kind of collection, on a separate web page, in a photo book or something like that.

Well, I’ve already thought about that, and it would have been an interesting SoFoBoMo project. Trouble is, that SoFoBoMo rules require at least 35 images shot within a 31 day interval between first of April and last of May (that’s what Paul Butzi, who invented SoFoBoMo calls a “fuzzy month”). 35 good bicycle images, that’s quite a lot to be shot in a month. That would have required finding more than one bicycle per day on average. Suffice to say that I gave up on the idea.

I registered on Paul’s SoFoBoMo announcement page, but ever since then I’ve held back. I lacked a project. Part of the problem is my weekly travel from Vienna to Carinthia and back. Now that I think of it, bicycles wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. You find them in both places 🙂

Another idea was to photograph portraits of strangers on the train. After all, I spend eight hours a week traveling, and most of the time I could ask someone. Let’s see, that’s four weekends, probably five if I position the “fuzzy month” well, though creating the last images in the very last days would mean to severely press my luck. What if I didn’t find anyone on the last weekend? OK, that means four weekends, nine images per weekend, and that could mean at least three people with three images, but better two images per person, probably 17 people and a self-portrait as the last image. Still, quite a lot, probably manageable, but I soon found out I had another problem: On most weekends I need that travel time to catch up with my daily blog!

Finally there is the fact, that I am not even excited by the idea. It would have been an interesting project, but probably not for me. I enjoy having silence and peace on the train, I enjoy working here, and when it’s busy in the compartment (just as it is now), then I hear music. Sacred music by Mozart at the moment. You see, I’m probably not the type for this kind of assignment 🙂

Still, reading Paul Butzi‘s blog, Paul Lester‘s and Gordon McGregor‘s (all three have finished their books by now), seeing the SoFoBoMo site, and not having a book of my own, that’s unsatisfying, to say the least.

There are only two weeks left now, I still have no project, not a single image, the only thing I have is an InDesign training DVD that I’ve bought, eight hours of training and I’ve seen not a single minute so far.

Anyway, this lack of a book is nagging me. I was already sure to give up (oh that bitter taste of defeat!), when I thought about it again today, and suddenly I saw the whole idea of a project from a new angle.

It’s hard to find unrelated objects of a kind, at least 35 of them in one month, and then take good images of all of them, images that also combine to a meaningful sequence. It’s even harder when you have a day job, and my weekly travels contribute to the problem. I can take landscapes on weekends, but in Vienna I do mostly street photography. How do you select a common kind of object?

So what, did I think today, if I don’t spread picture taking at all? What if I select a single day in Vienna or in Carinthia and do all my photography in that one day? Impossible? Maybe, but probably not if I re-think the concept of a project.

A book, regardless of type, literature or photo book, is by its very nature a sequence. What if I center the project around a naturally sequential concept?

So what is sequential? Order? The passing of time? A journey? Life?

Every book is a journey and so is life. That looks promising. I still have no clear vision of what I want to do, so let’s inspect some options.

I could let time pass, but stay in one place. Well, that’s fine for a year, with seasons, different weather and all the small changes that happen in a year, that may even make an interesting book. Probably this could even be done in a city like Vienna, standing at a busy corner. Something like “From Dawn Till Dusk”. It needs a busy, interesting place with much variability during the day, some luck, and it could well work. “Naschmarkt” comes to my mind. It’s the biggest market in Vienna. People begin working there at sunrise, and at night it ends with a big cleanup. I’d have to ask the shop owners, but I am quite sure most would agree.

What about an abstract, conceptional journey from far to near? Think about a forest seen in a distance. Now the same forest, a little nearer, nearer still, a group of trees at the side of the forest, a single tree, a branch, some leaves, a single leaf, part of a leaf, concrete to abstract. If this is not enough to yield a minimum of 35 images, I could use the same concept for two, three, maybe four such “journeys” and make these parts of the book. A forest, a mountain, a village, a river. “Inspections”. Nice title 🙂

What about a real journey? Well, rather a short trip, I guess. Something like walking from one end of Vienna to the other. If I carefully plan my way, I’ll hardly have trouble finding interesting places, but even if not, if I have to use something “unrelated” for part of the trip, then it will still be related, simply by the fact that it is there, on my route.

I have not decided yet, but it is clear that I better do something this weekend in Carinthia (that would be Sunday, I think) or during the next week in Vienna, though that would almost certainly need a day off from work. In any case I have to have the images ready before next weekend. That will leave me eight more days to produce a book. Crazy? Sure. Funny? Certainly! Possible? I have no idea 🙂

It seems like SoFoBoMo is not over yet. Stay tuned.

The Song of the Day is “At Last“, and the version I mean is the one by the ever so fantastic Mary Coughlan. It’s on her 2002 album “Red Blues“. Of course I have no video, but there is one of Etta James‘ version. It’s different, but it will give you an idea. While Etta James is very much Rhythm and Blues, Mary Coughlan is strictly Blues. Well, both are great and it’s a great song.

  5 Responses to “581 – SoFoBoMo At Last”

  1. Your initial thoughts on the SoFoMoBo project completely reflect my own. Extremly tempting, but how to squeeze in in ones everyday routines? I guess one challenge of the project was to break from that routine – and at least I have to admit defeat in that respect.

    But it sounds as if you start developing a great “last exit” strategy. I’m looking forward to whatever might happen – great photos will certainly be involved 🙂

  2. Andreas:

    I am glad to see you join the SofoBoMo book project and hope you find the theme that works for you. This is the first year that this project has started thanks to Paul Butzi and I think its important at least for us as artists that we contribute to the project.

    I decide to start later as I needed more warm weather for the foliage to start to grow as I wanted to capture some of the landscape and nature around me.

    I wasn’t sure of the project theme, but did select one. I have now decided to augment this theme, as it was not easy to get more images from the first location on time.


  3. Thanks!

    I’ve just returned from my first SoFoBoMo shooting day. I’m quite exhausted now, have not seen the images so far, but at least the numbers are quite OK

    Some time passes

    OK, I’ve slept a little. It’s 4 am now, I have just browsed through the images and it looks good. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain all Day. Fine for processing 🙂

  4. It alarms me that you would restrict your imagination to a single focus. We discussed this years ago when you were aimed at some single minded project. I cannot imagine you preoccupied by bathrooms, grass blades or sunsets.

    You have a genre. You are a master street photographer. Why would you limit that to a study of pores instead of faces? There are times when the trees really do obscure forests. And cobblestones the streets.

    You have developed a voice. Do you really want to use it to sing one song? Yipes. I’ve never been excited by single minded and narrow projects exercises. They seem to be more of a “Guess what’s on the teacher’s mind” challenges than portals to expanding the mind.

    In economics there is a concept called, opportunity costs. They are the value of what we forgo by choosing any action or purpose. I hope the that the opportunity costs of art foregone won’t overwhelm the the benefits.

    But then… wuhdooIknow?

  5. No reason to be alarmed. It has been one afternoon so far, it will be one afternoon more. Gladly the rules of my blog require to post a fresh image per day. I won’t stop doing as I did. This is just an opportunity to approach something from a different point of view. More systematic, if you will. And it’s fun 🙂

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