Life As An Itinerant Artist

Stories and anecdotes from fifteen years on the art show circuit. 

SoFoBoMo — Challenge Completed with Vegetableau series


Paul Butzi, the originator of the SoFoBoMo challenge, describes the challenge this way:

SoFoBoMo is short for Solo Photo Book Month – a group event where a bunch of photographers all make solo photo books start to finish, in 31 days, at more or less the same time. It’s modeled loosely on NaNoWriMo, where participating writers all write novels in a month, and NaSoAlMo, where musicians write and record solo albums in a month.

So far 873 people have signed up for SoFoBoMo ’09 and 176 books have been completed. View all completed books here.

For SoFoBoMo, the goal is to make the photos, write any needed text, layout the book, and produce a PDF image of the book, all in 31 days. Rather than confining it to a single calendar month, we use a ‘fuzzy month’, where you can pick any contiguous 31 day period inside a two month window – this makes it a bit more flexible and encourages broader participation.

I signed up to do a book around the first of June, giving myself slightly less than a month to complete the assignment. I had several ideas, but the requirement that all pictures had to be shot within the 30 day time period ruled several of them out. Finally I decided to do a project that I started several months ago, and knew would be easily finished without travel, or reliance on good weather for outdoor shooting. I broke out the Calumet Travelite kit and set up a small tabletop studio with a black-cloth backdrop.

At Busch’s, the local grocery store, I went shopping for interesting vegetables. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. When I was a student back in the dark ages, we would choose vegetables or fruit as models, as there wasn’t a fee to keep them posing, and they didn’t complain much. It still works. Armed with broccoli, beans, some huge Michigan radishes, corn and other produce, I worked on and off in the evenings between shows to make some fun images.


Corn, silk and kernels in closeup

I kept the lighting very simple. One key light, a small soft box with a 750 w/s strobe; and a backlight, 375 w/s with a snoot. That was it. I moved the lights around a lot, dialed them up and down, dialed the ISO up and down, and basically just winged it. I didn’t bother with the flashmeter, just had fun, and watched the camera LCD until I got close to something interesting. I like working this way sometimes, but it took a couple of days to dial it in and start feeling comfortable with the lights. At first I worked after dark so I didn’t have to block the window light, but then I got pressed for time and just went for the remainder of the images on one big day.

You can view the book on the SoFoBoMo site, here. It’s a pdf file, so you will need Acrobat to view it. [Note: Site no longer online as of May 2020]

June 29, 2009

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