Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Ari & Lizzie Cass-Maran: Not just for boys

Being able to combine school work with my own was such a thrill that I wanted more. I spoke to Ari about trying to do something with her involving a big frame - like a comic but an actual physical version. This would make sense because she had recently started up Graphic Scotland. While plotting this image someone pointed out that she had set it up with her wife, Lizzie. So to be reasonable I had to expand the idea to include two people...

I decided that building a huge wooden frame for an effect which could actually be done more appropriately in post-production was perhaps a touch wasteful. The line 'Comic books - not just for boys' came into my head while tossing ideas around and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do. Very accommodatingly they let me invade their boudoir and rearrange it to my liking (pausing to chap to their lovely cat) in order to come up with this shot.

Ari & Lizzie - Not just for boys

Friday, 11 November 2011

Sara Sheridan: Very modern histories

I bump into Sara all over the place; she writes historical fiction and seems to be quite good at it, judging by her success. During the Book Festival I asked if she would let me add her to my collection and happily she agreed! Of course, there's been no time at all since then to catch up on my to do list because of crazy deadlines so nothing much happened.

This week we were given an assignment at college to produce an editorial portrait, outdoors, showing something of the person's hobby/occupation... so I jumped at the chance to kill two birds with one stone. Within two hours of emailing her to ask if she was available I had booked her into Miss Dixiebelle for a 50s hairdo (her forthcoming novel Brighton Belle, described as a 'cozy crime noir', is set in 1950s Brighton); in the morning I went to borrow an iPad and find a feather.

Sara Sheridan

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Claudia Monteiro: Festivals stalwart

Claudia is often seen in Edinburgh's many festivals - unless it's at another festival somewhere in Scotland. When not gadding about town producing events or shouting about the city's amazing creative scene, she can be found around a large pan cooking for the troops. She was asked to provide a picture for an article in a Portugese publication (she's from Lisbon). So i obliged...


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Ken MacLeod: Sneaking him in there

I had contacted Ken back at the start of this project and happily, he was up for it. However, terrible weather cancelled the first appointment and then being tempted to the pub by Iain (M) Banks and Charlie Stross after a Science Festival event cut the second one short - and then there just wasn't time!

In the 'real' world I've been taking some portraits of the ESRC Genomics Forum staff; the helpful pixies of coincidence were on my side because Ken is a Writer in Residence there and so I had to get one of him. After missing him in the office by mere minutes I caught up with him at the Book Festival, where I spend most of my time during August and he was often to be seen as well.

As the site was unattractively muddy I used the Spiegeltent.

Genomics Forum:

It seemed terribly appropriate to have him looking amiable in what is effectively a pub. He had even suggested such a thing in the first place.

So it's not the picture it would have been but I rather like it and am glad to finally have him in my collection...

Monday, 11 July 2011

Christina Koh: Frenemy to Malaysian ghosts

Getting back on the horse, I arranged to meet up with Christina Koh, aka Chris Kouju. Having spent years as a journalist she now has a juicy Creative Writing qualification and is putting the finishing touches to her first novel.


Although graduated, Christina definitely counts towards my set of Napier 'top trumps'. I've heard her read bits of her work a few times and always wanted more of these strange ghost stories. We met up in Princes Street Gardens where I was hoping to get a long exposure making passersby look ethereal and unreal. This was foiled by Christina's incredible energy and inability to stay still for a second. In the end, this seemed to capture her joie de vivre rather wonderfully.

UPDATE Christina sent me this nugget she composed in honour of our meeting:

Scott murmured, "Say cheese." The girl grinned, tossed her head and stayed for the camera. Sunlight shot gold into her hair, highlighting the freckles of her arms as the breeze stirred her garden dress that summer's day. Perfect. Scott took the picture, and when he lowered the lens, the girl was gone. Only he heard the wail, rising, realisation dawning. He stroked his camera, fingers soothing: There, there, my love. Don't you see? You'll live forever.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

It's on!

After a couple of months either being frantic or catching up on sorely missed sleep it's about time to get back off this wagon.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Update: On hiatus

After nineteen lovely sessions with fascinating characters I've come to the point where I have to decide on what to hand in to the College. I love all my writers equally of course, but after a long discussion with the relevant tutor we settled on the ten which would be most suitable. Since the shoots and subjects were so varied this comes down to chance more than being any reflection on the models. I'm very grateful to everyone who has given their time to this.

The final images are:

Gavin Inglis Tracey S Rosenberg
Aiko Harman Sophie Cooke
Claire Askew Jonathan Whiteside
Ryan Van Winkle David Bishop
Barbara Melville Ever Dundas

You can see the whole bunch in all their glory here.

This means that for the next wee while I'll not be dashing around meeting writers. Which is not to say that I feel the project is over - how could it be!? I suspect I'll be keeping this going for a long time yet, but a few weeks to focus on other work is necessary.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Christina Stephen: Writer (and cameraphobe)

Christina (blog) is another of the Napier bunch. She is currently working on a non-fiction project. her most noteworthy trait in my brief experience of her is the lack of photographs from the past decade and a bit. Despite being, according to all of her classmates, quite lovely to look at she has become unable to look at pictures of herself. So when she said she was willing to be a part of this project we were all stunned!

However, as part of her acquiescence I promised not to release the image until she okays it and although she says she doesn't hate it (which is a coup in itself) she hasn't yet dis-embargoed it. I had said at the time that even if it never reaches the public eye I would deem it a success if she felt slightly less panicky at the sight of a camera than before, and I stand by this.

Christina Stephen

Christina works in a show home so I went to meet her there and posed her in the glorious penthouse. Well, on the third attempt we did; the first time I somehow forgot and the second time she had managed to double-book! Third time lucky...

Sadly it was raining outside so I couldn't take advantage of the lovely view so after playing with mirrors and speaking in calming tones for a while we ended up with a HELLO-style shot in the master bedroom.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Alison Summers: Writer, mostly of short stories

When I started this project I knew I wanted to get Alison on board. She's fabulously enthusiastic and looks more like Patsy Stone every time I see her. When not modelling tiaras she's studying towards a PhD at Newcastle University.

Alison Summers

I originally wanted to get Alison in a wine cellar but couldn't find a good one. She suggested the Museum but the roof was closed, which was a little bit disappointing. In the end we meandered the Museum and then Greyfriars graveyard, where i suddenly saw a tree stump and cried out, "be a tree!" - which she did!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

JL Williams: Poet, director, producer...

Jennifer (website), amongst other things, is Literary Officer at the Traverse Theatre and was recently poet of the month at the Scottish Poetry Library.

JL Wiliams

Having recently suffered at the lens of a photographer who wanted to make people look gritty, she was a little bit skittish to begin with but after a wee walk along the river seemed to be more settled. Battling the bright bright sunlight, I had to layer up two polarising filters in order to get a nice depth of field.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Ever Dundas: Writes scary things

Another of the Napier students, Ever is known for writing dark fiction which leaves her readers and audiences feeling slightly nauseous and scratching at their skin uncomfortably.

Ever Dundas

After ditching artsy ideas of her posing in a bath we went for a walk around Victoria Terrace and the Grassmarket, hoping for a nice outdoor table. When we couldn't find one (and the wind was flash-smashingly unhelpful) we ended up in her living room and once there was a friendly mannequin to hand she perked right up!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Barbara Melville: Science writer, foodie, events organiser, magician...

Another multitalented character is Barbara (website); studying Creative Writing, a science columnist with a bent toward the less knowledgeable reader, writes entertaining recipes when she can and in the last spare five minutes of the day is a magician an illusionist.

Barbara Melville

Barbara is one of the people I'm always very careful of when wielding a camera. She has a more than average sensitivity to the flaws she sees. So I was terribly pleased and flattered when she agreed to let me loose on her. She expressed a love of this image so we went up behind the museum to pose her near lots of graffiti. And then she hugged a cone.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Sian Bevan: Does pretty much everything

When not studying, Sian (blog)is an accomplished comedian, works with children and organises events. She's a dangerous subject because it's hard to work while giggling all the time...

Sian Bevan

We were meant to be sneaking into an abandoned bus station but someone had put a lock on the gate. After a nice walk in the park we ended up under a bridge, with lots of passersby peering in at who was being photographed there, and in a playpark where I made her look tiny.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

David Bishop: Writer, comics, science fiction, TV...

David Bishop (Wikipedia) has been involved in many of my geekier hobbies; he edited 2000AD for years, wrote Dr Who novels and plays (see the extensive list on his blog) and now teaches Creative Writing while writing freelance.

David Bishop

I went to see David at Napier Univesity's Craighouse campus. His only request was that we try to buck the trend and not show him "gurning like a loon", which seemed a reasonable request. On arrival I was tempted to put him against the picturesque view across Edinburgh but it was a hazy day, which put paid to that. Instead we meandered around the campus and I managed to cover about 5% of his enormous range of expressions, pausing to lick a hazard sign and parody John Napier en route.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Ryan Van Winkle: Poet etc.

Ryan Van Winkle (website) is, amongst other things, Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library. When not running around the world working with poets and other creative types he oversees much of what happens at the Forest Cafe and is generally larger than life.

Ryan Van Winkle

Ryan had suggested that, in order to demonstrate how he often feels, we arrange a long exposure in the Forest Cafe with him as a still point in the centre. It was unfortunate that on the day we had arranged the place was closed to the public and so there wasn't the usual hurly burly surrounding him. We went with the long exposure anyway. I may try a reprise on a busier day, if I can get him to sit still long enough...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Mark Cousins, Screenwriter, director, cinematographer...

Mark Cousins (IMDB) is another person with too many strings to his bow for me to list. Certainly he writes and is based in Edinburgh, which is enough for me.

Mark Cousins

Having been told of his boundless enthusiasm and extrovert tendencies (I did not, unlike previous photographers, get him to dance naked on camera) I had the image in my head of Mark perched on the castle esplanade, overlooking the city. As it turns out, he perches all over the place! But I hadn't allowed for the scorchingly bright sun - this being Edinburgh - so it would have been very tricky to get the shot I wanted. Instead we went around the outskirts of Arthur's Seat looking for places to perch.

I'm still frustrated at not getting what I was aiming for and may well ask him for a (twilight) rematch...

Jonathan Whiteside: Writer ,graphic novels

Jonathan Whiteside recently finished a Masters in Creative Writing at Napier University, where he specialised in writing comic book style fiction. Before I met him I had been told of him, and that he was being encouraged to take his studies further and do a PhD (A Doctor of Comics? How cool would that be!?). He's working on a book at the moment involving witches and insurance, set in Edinburgh.

Jonathan Whiteside

I find that I'm drawn more to the eccentric images as I progress. I had the idea of Jonathan poking his head out from behind a bush like a very dapper woodland creature but there weren't any appropriate bushes. This was a tree I liked as we were wandering and when I went through the day's output it jumped out at me. Completely unlike anything I had intended, it looks more like a promotional shot for a stage show about fairies, but I really liked it.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Sophie Cooke: Author, poet, travel writer

It's difficult to cover everything Sophie (no blog, but she's on Wikipedia!) has done in the world of writing so I won't even try. Certainly she has published two novels (with a third on its way), short stories and a travel column in the Guardian; she won the ESRC Genomic Forum's poetry competition and has been nominated for a fair number of awards - all while holding down a job!

Sophie Cooke

We had a wander (notice a trend?) from Jacob's Ladder and around the back of the Old Town, getting only a little bit rained on in the process. I had taken a very elemental feeling from her poetry and was hoping to convey that in the portrait, so when the wind started whipping her hair and skirt around I was very glad.

Despite this shot being very obviously lit by flash - which I generally dislike - it seemed to the the one, capturing something none of the others did.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Tracey S Rosenberg: Writer, Poet

Tracey was a recent recipient of the Scottish Book Trust's New Writers Award and is about to see her first novel published.

Tracey S Rosenberg

Tracey is a long term challenge for me, and partly to blame for me embarking on this project; as she was due to be published she needed a headshot but there weren't any good ones. We had a walk around George Square and Teviot Union, were dismayed by the bookcases with red lights in them and enjoyed blocking the spiral staircase on a Friday evening.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Keith Gray: Writer, young adult / teen

Keith comes from Grimsby but is very friendly. He does a lot of work with children for the Scottish Book Trust when not writing, talking to his parrot or making board games fun again.

Keith Gray

As much of his writing seems to be quite urban and set against a backdrop of grim post-industrial northern England I liked the idea of setting Keith as a splash of colour and life against abandoned warehouses or industrial estates. We met in Granton and discovered that on a sunny day nothing looks particularly miserable. Once we were finished I realised that this image, unusual because he's rarely seen not smiling and laughing, was my clear favourite.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Aiko Harman: Poet

Aiko (blog blog here) is another volunteer at the Scottish Poetry Library, coming to us from Los Angeles. She blogs and writes poetry and oozes serenity and a sense of disarming intelligence. She said she would like to be photographed somewhere green and as she was going to be visiting the Botanic Gardens I agreed to meet her there.


On a previous visit I had spotted this archway leading up to the Chinese garden and filed it away, thinking it would be lovely in the spring. And we found it. And it was lovely.

I know there seem to be a lot of poets so far, but it's because I know a lot of them and their routines seem to match mine quite well.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Claire Askew: Poet and other things too

Claire does too many things for me to list, as you can see from this. She writes, teaches, organises and inspires which, coupled with the fact that I'd never seen a photograph that really looked like her meant that I had to try.

Claire Askew

Because she's spent an astonishing proportion of her life to date attached to the University of Edinburgh she suggested that we try around the George Square area. After a bit of a wander and trying to get her to pose with attitude in the underpass, this one pleased me.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Gavin Inglis: Writer, performer, MC, everything else...

Gavin is a non stop powerhouse of a man, with fingers in more pies that I can count. He runs Underword, works with Writer's Bloc, has worked with most of the Festivals in Edinburgh and is generally a fascinating and lovely chap.

Gavin Inglis

A lot of images of Gavin show him looming out of the darkness, often because he will be in a gloomy venue so all you can make out it his face. I thought it would be nice to work with the looming so we went for a wander around the High Street, up and down closes and stairwells. This seemed to best capture him.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Dave Coates: Poet

Dave Coates (blog here) has had a good handful of writings published in various places (for example, here and here).

Dave Coates

As he has spent a lot of time volunteering at the Scottish Poetry Library it seemed the ideal place for him, and it was! Sadly I made the mistake of bringing a flashgun I wasn't used to, which left most of the shots not quite right. Although it's very far from a traditional portrait, I do like this one.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Russell Jones: Poet

Russel Jones (blog here) was placed third in the ESRC Genomic Forum's poetry competition and didn't quite win a recent 'friendly' poetry slam with his poem titled, Why I Hate Poetry Slams.

Russell Jones

I've been trying to offer my subjects a choice of location, both to make them feel comfortable and to put them in an environment which might be better suited to their work or personality. In this case I had an image in my head of Russell standing dramatically in the Old College quad and suggested this to him. It didn't quite come out as I had intended but I like the air of calm confidence.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Emma Beeby: Screenwriter

Emma is a screenwiter who most recently completed a Doctor Who audio drama, The Doomsday Quatrain for Big Finish. She has also been working on various films and computer games.


I had intended to avoid cheesy hand-to-face style portraits but liked this one so much I decided to go with it anyway.

Friday, 11 March 2011

The plan

When given an very open brief from college to produce ten images which show my strengths I decided quite quickly on my subject matter: author portraits.

It's fairly well known that the majority of authors are represented, both on book covers and on the internet, by photographs which do not show them at their best. This is largely due to the traditional poses used, which only work well on a few subjects. What I wanted was to break down the traditions and produce a series of images which more than anything were flattering. Location and pose can make an enormous difference to a photograph, so I believe they should be tailored to the person and not predetermined.

As Edinburgh has a flourishing literary scene that ranges from up and coming poets to world famous authors it seemed reasonable to make contact with a number of these writers and attempt to show the diversity in genre and personality amongst them.