Anatomy Of A Project

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 newsletter HYPO 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 8: The End

This mini-series, The Anatomy of a Project, began nine weeks ago with a post about the genesis of my current project, “The Garden”. The subsequent posts were (with one exception) about the wiggly path the project took, from creating the photographs to the struggle to edit and sequence the images into a cohesive whole, from laying out the book to the method of its launch.

Now I’ve reached the end. “The Garden” was officially launched this past Sunday at a Mini Popup Foto Festival.

I’d planned on concluding this mini-series by writing about that event. But upon reflection realize there’s no real point to that. The end should be the end.

Ending any mini-series is tricky. Do you wrap everything up in a nice package that explains everything that’s come before? Do you end on an enigmatic note, leave it up to the audience to make their own conclusions? For me, in this case, the end calls for rumination rather than description.

What is “the end” anyway?

Does everything just stop? How much do you want (or need) to reflect on the path that brought you to the end? Where do you go from here?

Let me answer those questions . . .

No, everything doesn’t just stop (obviously).

Reflection is good, it illuminates the path forward (unless you dwell, fixate, on the past).

The last question, where do you go from here?, is the trickiest. Do you repeat yourself because what you did was popular? Do you repeat yourself because that’s all you know? Do you repeat yourself because you’re afraid of failure? Do you do something different, informed by what you’ve just done? Do you do something different because it’s a big, multidimensional world? Do you do something different because you’re curious? Or what?

I can only speak for myself. Me, I use the camera as a tool of discovery. I don’t want to impose my “systems” on what I’m photographing. Sure, I have a history and certain ways of looking, thinking, and framing things. But I work hard to ensure the “subject” I’m photographing has some say. I want to meet the world halfway, want to approach the object of my attention (and interest), in a way that allows room for those people, places or things to come to me too. Therein lies discovery.

And I’ve always thought (believed) that discovery, moving forward, embracing risk and failure, was the whole point of being a conscious, alive person.

Now I’m going to step away from my camera until I’m ready to pick it up again. That might be a few weeks, might be a year. Who knows? (Who cares?) I’ll continue to garden, walk my dogs, shop for food and cook it, read, look, think.

When I do resume I’m pretty sure I’ll be looking for something different, looking at the world from a modified perspective. What, and how, that may be is to be determined. But I’m not worried.

I know that sooner or later something will grab me. And that will be a beginning.

My garden
Walking my dogs, Tim and Ellie
Making West African squash and groundnut stew

Planning A Popup

The launch of my book, “The Garden,” is four days away.

As I mentioned in a previous episode of this mini-series (here), a good way to create a buzz is to include other photographers. That is: to plan a mini popup foto festival. Each photographer invites their people, more people attend, more contact is made.

Below, you’ll find some of the nuts and bolts aspects of how I plan a mini popup foto festival. But before I get to that I have to mention that a festival should be more than a merely commercial (Let’s Sell Books!) concern.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a festival for the sake of hype, and hype only, will limit its reach and importance.

If your festival is entwined with some other, deeper need, beyond just showing your work or selling your book, you’ll create something that will mean more to you, something that will have a point other than simple commerce. Let’s call it: a mission.

So what, you might ask, is the mission of the festival I’m organizing?

Briefly: I’m at odds with the prevailing ethos of the local (serious) photo-scene. The work that is held up, noticed, and promoted here is, like the city itself, mostly cautious, conventional and conservative.

The Mini Popup Foto Festival is about supporting, and bringing forward, photographers whose work embraces risk, discovery and complexity. Photographers who venture out into the world to bring back images that reflect their relationship to (or with) what they find there. Photographers who then weave that raw material into long-form photo- sequences where the narrative arc adds up to more than the sum of the parts.

Complex, difficult work may not be fashionable in some local photo-scenes, but is important and deserves to be seen.


There, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the (my) nuts and bolts of putting together a mini popup foto festival.

First, the festival should be high-speed/low-drag, hyper-local, street-level, and completely independent. That’s my jam.

I figured on including myself and three other photographers. I know two who make work I can get behind, and who had recently produced books. I spent, on and off, a week looking around until I found a fourth photographer who met the criteria. (Ava Margueritte, Phil Rose, Souki Belghiti, me).

Next step, find venues to exhibit the work. I wanted places where the photographs would face out toward the street. That way passers-by can (and will) just happen across them, and the work is visible 24/7.

I’m lucky that my neighbourhood, approached the right way, is kind of like a village. I know my neighbours and local shopkeepers. It took me less than a day to find three spots that suited the purpose.

The locations are all on one block of Somerset Street, right around the corner from where I live. We’ve got the big window of a shuttered restaurant (which will show the work of two photographers), the barbershop window, and the railing around a coffee shop.

(The previous mini festival I organized used two big windows of vacant stores. It took five or six minutes to walk from one to the other, and that’s too far. I learned that for something like this to “work”, keeping it compact is key.)

We’re going to mount the photographs on nicely finished boards that will be hung in the windows (Except for the coffee shop, where the photos will be displayed outside).

Here are the boards we’ll use in the restaurant window, and the swell plywood that’ll fit nicely in the barbershop.

For publicity, we’ve created a Facebook event page and have planned other social media campaigns. We’ve also printed posters, and an 8 page booklet. The booklet will be free to the first 60 people who come to the opening.

If this all sounds straightforward, simple, well . . . that’s because it is. Anyone can do it. There’s no need to gussy things up, to be precious, to shroud the process in mystery. Just make sure you bring a high level of professionalism to the endeavour. And make sure the photos are well presented.

The Mini Popup Foto Festival opens Sunday June 4th.

In order to make it an actual festival (as opposed to just hanging our photos) we’ve arranged a couple of events.

The Sunday after the opening we’ll be hosting, on site, artist talks. The following Sunday we’ll close out the festival with a Zoom meeting with Souki Belghiti, who lives in Morocco. That Zoom meeting will be available to anyone, anywhere, who cares to log in.

Let me tell you, there’s no action like direct action.

A Different Project

by Tony Fouhse

There will be a short gap in these posts about the process behind “The Garden”. This week’s article was supposed to be about the book launch, which was scheduled to happen the third week of May. But circumstances changed (as they tend to do), and the launch won’t be happening until June 3rd.
So this week I’m going to briefly write about another project I recently finished: “77 rue du Prince Moulay Abdellah.” A project that had a very different genesis, and followed a different process than “The Garden.”

After all, there’s more than one way to do a photo project.
Of course we all have our aesthetic proclivities, areas of interest and ways of working. Nothing wrong with that. But there’s always wiggle room, always (if you stop to think about it) ways to allow the subject, and your relationship to it, to seep into the process. If your subject is a round peg but all you’ve got is a square hole, and you just jam that peg into that hole, it’ll never feel or fit right.

So what are the differences between the making of the “The Garden” and “77 rue du Prince Moulay Abdellah”?

In a nutshell . . .

With “The Garden” I had an idea and set about to photograph it.

My approach was quite considered (in a fluid way). I knew (loosely) what and how I’d need to photograph to make the project “work”. Over a period of several months I shot almost a thousand photos. The subject matter was quite diverse.

Then I spent several more months editing it all down to 51 images, which were woven into a complex sequence akin to a fairy tale. Months after that “The Garden” will finally appear on my website and as a book.

On the other hand, “77 rue du Prince Moulay Abdellah” was a reaction to specific circumstances.

March of this year I found myself in an apartment in Casablanca, Morocco. For reasons I won’t go into here, that situation caused me a certain amount of existential angst; I felt alien and removed. It was that combination of place and feeling that led to the project.

“77 rue du Prince Moulay Abdellah” was conceived, shot, post-produced and sequenced very quickly. I photographed (on and off) for 3 days, mostly from one specific vantage point. The post production and sequencing took another week. I published the complete project (in my newsletter) the day after it was finished. Ten days in total, start to finish. Done.

(If you want further details, Andrew Molitor (one of the most interesting (and iconoclastic) photo critics writing these days) published a very insightful critique/analysis of the project. You can read it here. As well, I want to thank Rob for publishing the complete project here. I asked him if we should just show a few of the images and provide a link to the project. He responded, “We’re running all the photos. It’s always worth experimenting.”)

I don’t travel to seek out the sights. I travel to just be wherever I am.
I’ll walk to the edge of the place, to neighbourhoods and industrial areas. I’ll sit and look and feel. I might think.

Photography doesn’t have much of a role in this endeavour. In fact, it often impedes, distracts, restricts. It often insists on a pro forma reaction.

But in Casablanca I found myself in a situation where a project fell into my lap or, more accurately, my brain. It seemed right. It has hardly anything to do with Morocco.

I became obsessed with the apartment where I was staying. 77 rue du Prince Moulay Abdellah, the 7th floor.

A terrace runs its length, it has views to the south and the west that completely occupied me. I only left the building to get food.

Time passed, life went on.

Anatomy Of A Project

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 newsletter HYPO 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 7: Photobook Design

Okay, photobook design? What do I know?

Not a lot, really. I’m a photographer, not a designer. But I have spent some time thinking about placing photographs on the pages of books, and how the decisions you make can (will) either help or hinder the work.

So, necessarily, what follows is broad strokes and a few examples from personal experience, followed by some general thoughts . . .


All through the sequence and dummy process of The Garden I’d been using my go-to approach. That’d be: all photos the same size, one photo per page, all the photos in the same position, some blank pages, minimal text.

Here’s a pic of the first dummy (top) and the final dummy of The Garden.

There’s a danger to using a standard, template-style layout when you’re in the initial stages of placing the images in the dummy. Change becomes more difficult when you’re used to looking at something in a specific way. (Also applies to life.) But what if there’s a better way to get your idea, the idea of the photographs, across in the book? (What if there’s a better way to live your life?)

I’ve seen this happen quite a few times when I’ve been involved (directly or peripherally) in the making of other photographers’ photobooks. Fortunately, in all of those cases some kind of intervention happened, things got shook up and the book became better.

Case in point: when we walked on thin air, by Souki Belghiti. (I’ve been mentoring Souki, who lives in Casablanca, Morocco, for two years.)

We’d been working on her sequence of photos for a while and were using, for ease and convenience (two things which may well be counterproductive to getting the most out of art and life) a straightforward approach to their layout.

And then, well . . . I’ll let Souki tell you . . .

Hakim Benchekroun helped me choose the book size. He designed the cover, and the poem inside (which I then moved a little) and he suggested, at the time, my classical layout wasn’t the best option. He tried tweaking the pictures’ position a little – some above the middle line, some below, all the same size – which didn’t work – and our collaboration then stopped. (But he had inseminated the idea a better layout was possible)

During a workshop, Zoopark Publishing Collective offered a layout very close to the one I ended up using, with 3 sizes for the pictures, creating a rhythm, and a different sequence. (They explained how layout and sequence play on one another.) Their sequence was more thematically straightforward (around the pandemic). They also showed us how to use InDesign, giving me the freedom to tweak their design and sequence, to what I wanted. :) – which I did, after the workshop was over.

Then for the “poster”. I was having a beer with my friend Melanie Yvon and complaining how hard it was to find a designer in tune with what I was trying to express. She drew it, right then and there. (Did I tweak it afterwards, too? Of course.)

Alexis Logie then designed the flap to put the poster in, suggested the book be sewn rather than glued etc.

Took a village. All the mistakes are mine.

This layout, for me, suits the look, feel and intention of Souki’s work. There’s meant to be a sense of dislocation in the sequence of images, and the jarring design heightens this feeling.

On the other hand, my book (The Garden) is meant to be episodic, cinematic, and kind of straightforward. A trip through a city in some strange twilight. The work wants a straightforward flow, where each photo has the same weight as the others.

Here’s the opening sequence to The Garden, the introduction to that trip . . .

I might be using backward logic to justify my choices. I don’t know. But I do know that I put a lot of thought into how I wanted these photos to appear in the book. In the end, if you’ve thought about it and it feels right, well . . . there you go. The trick is to consider the components and the idea, and to explore possibilities before you come to a conclusion.

Finally, some random thoughts and opinions. (Bear in mind: I’m a photographer, not a designer.)

In certain cases the flair that’s put into the physical object enhances the feeling and reading of the work. But throwing money at super-cool binding, different paper stocks, making the book complicated to open and look at should only be used if it serves a purpose (other than seducing photobook fetishists). All those extra bells and whistles add a lot to production costs. So if you want your book to make money you’ll have to charge a lot for it which, paradoxically, reduces the pool of potential buyers.

Me, I like my books to be affordable and to make money. So they’re typically simple in their design and manufacture (but not, if I may be immodest, simple in their content). I want them to be more utilitarian than luxurious, an approach that suits my ethos. (I’ve published 5 books and a bunch of zines, all have turned a profit, all but one is sold out.)

Where I live (Canada) the cost of shipping doubles if the package weighs more than 500 grams. Since most of my sales are to the USA and Europe, and because shipping is expensive, I take this into account when I’m designing my books. I make sure they weigh, packaged, less than 500 grams. You might want to do a bit of research into shipping costs, and design your book with that in mind.

I do short runs on digital presses, I know I can sell 200 books without spending a year of my life being a photobook salesperson (or having boxes of unsold books in my basement), so that’s (usually) the number of books I print.


Last week’s episode of Anatomy of a Project was about hype. That would have been the perfect context to hype my book. Typically, I forgot to do that.

(During the process of producing and selling your book you’ll forget stuff, your big plan will get messed up. Don’t worry, just roll with it, keep going. That’s the way stuff gets done.)

So allow me to hype my book by showing you a couple of ways I’m hyping my book . . .


This was a note I included at the end of a recent newsletter . . .

The Garden is available for pre-sale. It’ll ship end of May.

All pre-orders come with a swell, small work print, complete with pin holes (I stuck these on my editing board) and, if you’re lucky, weird markings and annotations I used to remind myself how I wanted to post-produce the final files.

Get your copy here. Support my practice and this newsletter. You know you want to.


I’d take photos when I was showing the dummy of The Garden to people whose opinions I respect. I’d note their reactions, what they said. The aim was to use these photos and words on social media. Here’s one of those encounters.

Anatomy Of A Project

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 newsletter HYPO 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 6: Hype

In the past I’ve always written (and posted) about my projects as they were in progress. I’d post lots of photos, write about my ambitions for the work, my approach and process, and (mostly) about how confused I was.

That seems to make people feel closer, more engaged with the work when it finally appears.(Not that that’s the reason I do it. The reason I do it is so I better understand what I’m doing, what I’m working towards,)

But I’ve kept this new project (The Garden) pretty much to myself, only written about it tangentially, only posted the occasional picture.

Now, though, it’s pretty much done. The edit and sequence finalized, the dummy made, the final post production of the files complete. All that remains is the hype and the launch. But the thing is essentially ready to release.

And when I release it, I’ll want to “move product”. By that I mean I’ll want people to see and be engaged with the work, and buy the book.

So I’ve been wondering: How do you move product?

Of course there’s not any one way that’s best, there are many paths. There’s the seduce-the-powers-that-be option (not my style). There’s the pay-to-play option (I refuse to participate). And the spend-the-next-year-or-two-promoting-the-work option (I’d rather work on something new).

So perhaps a better way to phrase the question is: What’s the best way for me to move product?

I asked my newsletter readers some questions about this matter. Here are the questions, along with their answers . . .

1/ Would you feel more involved with a project (and more likely to buy the resulting book) if images and other details were shared as the project evolved?

One person said they would not feel more involved but might buy a book anyway. The rest were very interested in the process, said that that engagement made them feel attached to the project and more likely to buy the book.

2/ Does it make any sense to post the complete project on my website and/or send it around for some free hype a few months before offering the book for sale?

One person thought posting the complete project made sense. All the other respondents thought it would be better to show an extract of the book. But there was a variety of opinion as to how much to show. Some thought a couple of pictures and short text would be enough. Others wanted to see “more than a teaser” so they could figure out whether it tickled their fancy (or not).

3/ Is there an optimum month to release a book?

Almost everyone said it didn’t matter. A few respondents were quite sure September was best, but May was also good.

I would have asked “What’s a good way to launch a book, especially if, like me, you want to operate as much as possible outside the Academy and Gallery System”? But I already know the answer to that question . . .

My most recent book (Endless Plain) was launched a year and a half ago. I knew some local photographers (whose work I respect) who were also launching books around that time. We banded together, arranged to exhibit our work in two exterior locations, had an opening/book launch and a few other events. Turned the thing into a Mini Popup Foto Festival.

Involving more photographers in a launch makes sense. Each brings their own group of people – and a greater buzz is created.

Because Victoria, Ian, Ava and I were working outside official channels (the academy/ white cube system) we were able to pull the whole thing together in just over a month. Lots of people attended the opening, we sold a bunch of books and, bonus – during the two weeks the photos were on display many passers-by stopped to look at, think about and discuss the pictures, I’d call the whole thing a success.

Anatomy Of A Project

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 newsletter HYPO 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 5: The Garden

Except for designing the book and launching it, my latest project is finished. Even though it’s now February (ed note: when this was written) I’m not planning on launching the book until May.

Even so, time has a way of passing and before you know it, well . . . the time has come (and gone). So I thought I’d peck away at some of the tasks that need to be seen to before the event.

First thing, I need to give it a title. I don’t like the titles I assign to my work to be too explanatory or prescriptive, I want them to only point in a general direction. Getting that right can be tricky.
I’d been thinking about what to call this project for a few weeks (maybe more). I made a list of title ideas, but they all seemed wrong. Then, out of the blue a title that feels really right just popped into my head. I’m pretty sure that that’s because the front-of-the-brain thinking I’d been doing set up a chain of back-of-the-brain events. My subconscious was chewing away on the problem all by itself. And that often leads to better, less mediated, and maybe even more pure, results.

Of course, it (the title) had to pass the front-of-the-brain test to make sure it actually works. And it does.

The Garden.

Now I had the title it was time to design the cover.

I enlisted good friend, mentor to many, and ace designer Michael Tardioli to do the designing. (I’d been showing him the project as I was working on it so he had a good sense of its tone.) He dropped by the other day, we drank some coffee, chewed the fat, and then he got down to the task at hand.

It’s so much fun to take a back seat to someone who knows and respects my work. I watched Michael, seemingly effortlessly, whipping the cover into shape. No drama. He asked a few questions, tried a few permutations, finessed some finishing touches and there you have it. Plain and simple, just the way I like it.

Finally, I needed to write a Project Statement.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I dislike Artist Statements that use art-speak and attach all kinds of meaning to the work. In my opinion that kind of Statement is most often wishful thinking and/or an attempt to direct (fool) the viewer. If the work is any good I figure folks will arrive at their own conclusion just by looking at it.

So I have to put my money where my mouth is, don’t I?

When I was nearing the end of sequencing The Garden I made a list of words and phrases that (for me) defined the work. I thought that would be useful to fine-tune the sequence. (And it was.)

I pulled that list up on the screen, referenced it, and the statement pretty much wrote itself.

The Garden is the third in my series of projects that are speculative (fiction), rather than fact-based (documentary).

Episodic, impressionistic, mysterious, The Garden is drawn from the streets. A fairy tale or maybe just a trip. The protagonist makes their way through a city in some strange twilight. There is destruction, decay, loneliness and, in the end, an encounter. Is this the garden? Where is the comfort?

Anatomy Of A Project

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 newsletter HYPO 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 4: Dummy

I made a mini-dummy of the first “final” edit of the project. Showed it to some folks whose opinions I respect. Asked them to pick it apart. And like the good friends they are, they delivered. This sucker needed some changes.

So I made another set of small work prints and pinned them to the big editing board in my studio. (Time to get real.)

Taking the feedback I had received into consideration, over the next 2 or 3 weeks I made dozens of (mostly) small changes. Eventually I arrived at an almost final version of my project. Yes, it was better. Time to make a size-as dummy. This will facilitate (and lead to) the final tweaks to the sequence.

I made size-as prints and stuck them into an Itoya Art Portfolio. At this stage I always use the Itoya because it’s cheap (12 bux). It also has acetate sleeves that make it easy to change the order of the images and/or to swap out photos that don’t work.

I showed it to friends, neighbours and colleagues. Many of them pointed to the same 2 or 3 photos, said they felt wrong. No surprise there, even at this late date I was still trying to use images that didn’t really work (because I wanted them to work).

So I took out those photos, added three different (more useful) ones (that were already in my Possible Selects folder). And, lo and behold, this new version made better sense.

There was also a lot of comment (criticism) along the lines of, “There’s something wrong with the ending, it’s awkward.”

Yes, that final sequence had bothered me all along. I was hoping it would work, but seeing the whole project in the dummy really drove home the fact that the feel and pacing of ending needed a rethink.

So, with a better (different) idea of what the final sequence needed, I combed through every single photo I’d taken for the project. I was looking for something. I knew it was in there somewhere, all I had to do was recognize it.

I pulled out 5 or 6 previously rejected photos, and different versions of some of the images I had used. After making work prints of these “new” photos I began to rework, reimagine and refine the ending. After a few days of frustration and exasperation, I finally figured it out.

I made three changes. First, I used a different version of one of the originally included photos. Below is the removed photo (left) next to the image that replaced it. The removed photo might be a “better” shot, I don’t know. But I do know the photo on the right better suits the sequence.

Then I swapped a photo for a completely different one. Finally, and this will tell you how slow and stubborn I can be, I… well let me back up a bit…

I have a few weird obsessions / compulsions / rules. One of them is I want my photobooks to end with one photo on the left-hand page. Another has to do with numbers – there are “good” numbers and “bad” numbers. These obsessions are, maybe, odd. I don’t know. But they exist in my head and are quite powerful.

As it stood, the book contained 50 photos (a “good” number), and ended with a single image on the left-hand page (also “good”). Problem was . . . the ending wasn’t working.

If I ended with a double spread the book would not only have 51 photos (a “bad” number), it would also end with a photo on a right hand page (also “bad”).

My rules made it inconceivable (impossible!) for me to consider using 51 images, and it never even occurred to me to end the book with a double page spread.

I spent days struggling to make the thing work within these nonsensical constraints.

Finally I realized I was being a complete idiot.

The sequence/book now contains 51 photos and ends with a double page spread. I broke two of my stupid rules and the whole thing is better for it.

It feels done. I feel good.

Anatomy Of A Project

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 newsletter HYPO 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 ways 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 begin 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 only 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 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 cared 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 to not 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 to 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 began 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.

Anatomy Of A Project

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 newsletter HYPO 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 2: Whittle It Down, Add It Up

A while ago I was driving from San Francisco to Pleasanton, California, for a photo shoot. Just past Castro Valley I pulled over to take a leak and there, on the side of the rolling hills, was a herd of grazing cows. A pastoral scene, the light was beautiful. My assistant asked if I was going to photograph it. I replied, “What would I do with a photo like that?”.

A photo of that bucolic scene would be useless to me. I mean, I see it and appreciate it, but it’s not how I see things (if you know what I mean). But why would I want to take (or make) a photo just because it conforms to some standard definition of Beautiful, or Nice Light, or Wow?

Sure, that might rob me of some simple joy . . . the joy of producing a generic, crowd- pleasing photo. But I find no joy in that. What satisfies me is creating images that show, illuminate and propound my biases, the way I see my world.

Pleasanton, California
Pleasanton, California

What I like to do is generate a pile of pictures that show me permutations of the idea or concept I’m working on. I’m not interested in photographing the same thing the same way over and over. I want complexity and options so that, when it comes to the edit/ sequence, I can whittle that pile down, add it up and arrive at some conclusion. That’s what I like to do with photos.

Of course the taking of the photos, the time spent out in the world looking, feeling, thinking and being open is integral to the process. And it gets me out of the house, which is another reason I photograph. I enjoy the activity.

I’ve been out eleven nights now working on this new thing and I’ve got 76 pix in a folder called Possible Selects . . .

Me, at night
Possible selects

Occasionally I root through those, put them in little 4 or 5 photo sequences to see what I’ve done, what I’m doing. I look for possibilities and for flukes that add up in unexpected ways. And what I’m seeing (as usual) is that some of my initial ambitions for this project are less sure. Conversely, things that I never imagined are presenting themselves and showing me a way forward.

That’s the reason I take photos.

Anatomy Of A Project

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 newsletter HYPO 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 1: Genesis

I’ve begun a new project and, well, I guess that’s what I’m going to write about . . . the process, thought patterns, tribulations and progress as the project progresses. I do this because writing about the work in progress, as it’s in progress, helps me understand what I might be trying to do.

There are two ways my projects begin . . .

One: I become interested in learning about some location and/or demographic and set about photographing it. I like to allow the camera and the subject matter to lead the way . . . I follow along and ponder.

Two: I snap a certain number of photos for social media. 99.9% of those photos mean almost nothing to me. But every so often I end up with an image that, for some mysterious reason, ignites my imagination. It shows me a possibility I feel I might pursue. That’s the case with my new project.

Here’s the photo that was the genesis of this new project . . .

Late on June 8th I had a look out the front door before I went to bed. There was a car pulled over up the road, lights left on illuminating my neighbour’s Iris. Thought it’d make swell, easy social media viewing so I snapped a few pix.

Next day, when I loaded it into my computer I was somehow affected. I thought of the mysteries that happen when the sunlight disappears and the city is only illuminated by artificial light. I thought about The Coast, by Sohrab Hura; I thought
about Grand Circle Diego, by Cyril Costilhes. Not that I wanted my photos to look like theirs, direct-flash-after- dark is not for me. But the feel of that photo of the irises somehow reminded me of their work.

I didn’t stop to wonder why this particular photo had that effect, I just surrendered to the magic, trusted my instinct. The next night I wandered the streets looking for the next (or at least another) picture that might be informed by what I had seen in that photo. And wouldn’t you know it . . . I ended up with five I thought might be useful. (Useful is the word I use when working on projects to describe the images I set out to generate. Whether they are “Good” or Bad” doesn’t, at this point, enter into the equation.)

Here are a couple . . .

I have no idea if these will end up in the final edit, at this point all I’m trying to do is find possibilities. Each new possibility is a signpost pointing some way forward. As the signposts accrue I get a little bit lost (which I like) and the whole thing becomes more complicated (which I like).

When I’m working on a project I don’t shoot from a list, don’t have some predetermined template. I want to use the camera to discover. Matthew Genitempo states the process very eloquently. He says, “I just wait to see what the pictures are doing, and then I follow that. And once I can see what direction I’m intuitively heading in, then I begin to imagine the entire project.”

These are early days. I’m sure there will be twists, wrong turns and discoveries as this thing unrolls. I’m just beginning to see, nothing is written in stone.

And that first photo, the one that started me on this path? I’m pretty sure it has served its purpose and I will find no other use for it.


For the nerds out there . . . All pix shot after dark using available light only.

SONY RX100 V point and shoot (on manual), ISO usually at 3200. Typical exposure between 1/4th and 1/60, f/2.8, handheld.

I’ll leave you with that bit of camera porn.

If you have the time and inclination you can follow along as I work this thing out.

We’ll see.