Between the Lines
In 2009 I presented a concept to the Edinburgh International Book Festival to host a ‘live exhibition’ of portraits of authors taken and displayed on site, in Charlotte Square Gardens. The Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) is the world’s largest book festival and is part of the world’s largest festival that takes place annually in Edinburgh. After some logistical hurdles they kindly agreed and what became an annual pilgrimage began. I describe the exhibition as a ‘live exhibition’ because the portraits are taken on site and the work is uploaded, retouched and printed at night, ready for hanging the next day.
Thus it grows daily as new work is added. The studio I work from is not, as has been suggested, 'a penthouse studio' but an outdoor backdrop in the gardens of the Book Festival.
There is no pretence or pretensions and the set up negates I work quickly and with a simple lighting set up. It is a leveller for the great the good, the bad and the famous. Everyone is shot on the same background with similar lighting. ‘The studio’ which is exposed to the elements has no privacy. As a result it allows extroverts a stage to embrace, and offers little hiding for the shy. This combination of circumstances coupled with my own approach has produced a huge series of author portraits unlike any previously seen and has grown to become probably the only exhibition of its type anywhere in the world. In portraiture I want to capture an element of humanity in the subject.
I have anything from a few to thirty minutes with each person. Often people have seen the work and ask to be shot so preparation can go out of the window and a lot of the success depends on the ability to establish a rapport with the subject. I try not to have too many preconceptions of people I have not met. People have good days, bad days and I shoot them as I find them. Prejudging according to when you may have seen them on television, in films or from the work they have written is unwise and largely fruitless.