This is a little piece of much too late advice for all those who began SoFoBoMo 09 and finally decided to give up on it.
Let me first make one thing very clear: whatever your reasons are, they are respectable, and as in starting such a project, the decision to bury it, is all yours. Still, reading some blogs and thinking about it, I got the impression that I should share some experiences, that probably would make it easier for some people some other year.
A book is a big effort. When you look at photobooks that you can buy, you immediately see that most of the images have been taken over an extended period of time, and certainly not within a single month. Furthermore I think it is reasonable to assume, that the actual bookmaking is normally not done by the artists themselves. This all puts a SoFoBoMo participant at a not insignificant disadvantage, and in a way we all have to compensate for it.
The rules are set, we all have a life and supposedly all have to work for a living, thus the frame is a little more narrow than it seems upon first sight. Let’s take last year: I learned of SoFoBoMo 08 very early, I guess I read the official announcement post on Paul Butzi’s blog, but then a period of procrastination and doubt began.
Can I do it? Do I have something to say? Am I able to string 35 images together and make a book with a meaningful sequence?
I have pretty many bicycle images in my collection, and the first idea was to make a book about bicycles. A quick look into my image database made clear though, that I had never ever made more than maybe half a dozen good bicycle images in any month. Sure, you can look for them, but you are still dependent on them being there in the first place.
I pondered some other possibilities, and I was already determined to give up, when the first success stories came in. This SoFoBoMo thing began to hurt my ego. And then I found what I could do: Make a lot of images in one single day, and simply use the temporal sequence to tell a story. I had some other ideas, but finally I took my tripod, a bag of lenses, drove to a canyon in the mountains nearby with a creek and some waterfalls, made more than a hundred exposures, and that was it. No trouble with the sequence, no trouble with any big story, moral impact or what. It was simply a book about a walk through a canyon. People still liked it, because it is quite a nice canyon.
There are countless other possibilities along the same lines. Walk through a city and show it off, preferably not only the usual “sights”, maybe more the “in-betweens”. Make some images every 100 meters. Look back. You’ll automatically connect the images by showing the progress of your walk.
Make the same for a walk through a small town. Begin outside, go through the center, close outside. Let a day pass and show it in your images. All that is what I call “natural sequences”. Don’t be shy to use them. They are interesting for the viewer, and they solve one of your biggest problems, the problem of what to photograph and how to present it.
Natural sequences of photographs taken in one day, that’s one thing that I can vouch for. The other is, to simply do what you always do, take images of what you always take images of, that’s what you have the most experience with, that’s what you are best at, and when you do it all the time, that’s obviously something that you never tire of. The only thing you need is a very broad topic.
That’s what my effort this year was. “Urban Dreams II” is a book of images that I very likely would have been attracted to take anyway. Not necessarily in this month, not necessarily as a collection, but it is simply my way of making pictures. OK, I began to experiment, and now a not so small part of them are horizontal compositions where the image is cut in two distinct parts. This is something that I have not done very often, but I could do it without ever being in danger to not get enough images. Through the whole process I was on my home turf.
I have seen other strategies that work well. Some people have made their books of images that they made on a short or long trip. This can be a variation on “natural sequences”, though it need not be. In any case they used images that most likely would have been taken anyway.
Whatever you do, I think it is very important to minimize your risk. Making a photobook in 31 day is crazy enough, especially when making also means getting familiar with publishing programs, PDF files and how to get them small, learning publishing lingo and all that. All these strategies minimize risk and should enable you to get fun out of the process.
Again, I know this advice, if it’s any good, comes much too late and I’m sorry for that. It’s only that I had to learn these things by myself.
I’d be very interested in two things: If you did not complete, what were your particular reasons for it? And do you think that following one or the other of these strategies would have made life easier for you?