A new 8 part miniseries where Ottawa photographer Tony Fouhse takes us through his new project, from the first photo to the book launch. Tony is an internationally exhibited and collected photographer who was formerly a full time editorial/commercial photographer. These posts originally appeared in his HYPO newsletter which you can subscribe to here to see more of his work visit his website here.
To pre-order Tony’s book go here.
Anatomy Of A Project
Episode Nº 3: Anatomy Of An Edit
After a couple of months diligently (obsessively) working on this project my vague notions of what I was working towards became more refined, more focused and selective. There were lots of photos in my Possible Selects folder. It felt like I was getting a handle on the thing, like something was happening.
It was time, I thought, to have a concerted look at where I had been, what I had done. So I decided to sit down and spend some time rooting through the images I’d gathered. Just to get a feel for them, a sense of what I might be doing.
In my head I called it a Fast Preliminary Edit. It’s not even an edit really, I told myself, I’ll just dick around with the photos. My only ambition was to begin to figure out how the photographs might add up.
The big question on my mind, as I sat down to study the photographs was: Would the photographs support my initial idea. (My initial idea was, I wanted to photograph a lullaby, whatever that means.) And if they wouldn’t, well . . . what had I photographed?
In other words, I was setting out to discover what I’d actually done. And discovery, for me, is the most exciting thing about photography.
I knew from the get-go that sequencing this project, uncovering what I had done, was going to be complicated. The images are not exactly cohesive; there are so many possible permutations that finding a (the) thread was going to be vexing. (Sequencing a series of portraits that all look more or less the same, or a bunch of landscapes that are quite uniform is much easier. Not only that, I would say it’s also less important than the complicated weaving of images that projects like this require .)
But anyway . . . No pressure, I told myself, don’t get hung up, have fun.
Let’s get going . . .
First thing I did was I loaded all my Possible Selects into Bookwright. (The free software Blurb provides for laying out books, kind of like a lite version of InDesign). I use Bookwright for the preliminary sequencing of all my projects. . . it’s super easy to use and allows fast sequence changes, page shuffling and so on. It’s most convenient for this process.
When I start preliminary edits I like to keep the time working with the images very short. I don’t want to spend hours sitting there perplexed, staring at the photos. I start fast, make snap decisions. Might spend 10 or 15 minutes working on it. Then I leave my computer and get on with my life.
I always have a quick look first thing in the morning, while I’m still a bit dopey. That’s a good time. Then I’ll have a few more quick looks throughout the day, make some changes. I never save any of these early iterations because there’s nothing worth saving. I’m just groping, trying to get a feel.
The first few days of this were quite depressing, I felt powerless in the face of the photos. But, like I say, I made snap decisions, put some photos in some order, looked at the result. . . and despaired. What kind of dog’s breakfast is this, I asked myself. And more than once I thought, What’s the point anyway? Nobody cares.
That went on for about a week, then things changed. I saw that the photos weren’t going to support my initial idea, that idea was too prescriptive, too narrow. Instead I began to see (the pictures showed me) what I had done. The way I saw it, I had photographed a fairy tale. With that new premise I began to see how I could shape and sharpen the photos to a point.
That revelation caused my initial ambition (or rather, non-ambition) for this edit to change. I could see a way forward, it seemed I had enough photos to actually make something of this. The Fast Preliminary Edit turned into work-this-through-and-arrive-at-a-conclusion. I no longer care that nobody cares. I cared now, and that was (is) enough.
The following week was kind of intense, the stakes had been raised. Many hard decisions were made and unmade. Order arrived at and abandoned. Second, third, fourth and fifth thoughts. Whole sections of the edit shuffled.
I did my darndest not to get hung up, not to gum up my brain-flow. Fluidity is important. And anyway, it’s not the end of the world. (Is it?)
Finally I arrived at (or maybe approached) some kind of conclusion, more than just the bones of the thing, there was some flesh on it too. Not a perfect body, but good enough to show a few people.
Now I’m going to make small work prints, stick ’em in a book. The transition from the virtual (computer) to the sensual (real photos on real pages) shows the sequence, the turns and spreads, in a completely new way.
And this new way of seeing the work will show me all kinds of mistakes and stupidities. I’ll carry this book (dummy) around, show it to people I respect and ask them to be critical (as opposed to nice).
After all, this is just the first iteration, there will be many, many more before this is done.
– I started photographing for this project June 1, 2022, took the final photo July 27. Total number of images 987.
– There are 152 images in my Possible Selects folder.
– At this point there are 46 photos in the final sequence.
– I initially use Blurb software but I don’t use Blurb for the actual printing. I use local printers.