This time last year I was artist-in-residence at the Wigtown Book Festival, during which time I took 173 portraits of authors, locals and visitors staring intensely into the camera. These photos were then printed out and pinned to the walls of the studio space I’d been given, so visitors walking into the room had 346 eyes staring directly at them. Not everyone reacted well... For those interested, I put together a book about my experience of the event, including all the photos displayed, which you can order from blurb.com here or download the ebook version for your iPad here.
In these days of economic crises, funding for arts events has been slashed, so I got to thinking about how I might be able to help raise funds or publicity for the Wigtown Book Festival this year.
I then hit upon the idea of photographing some of the authors as literary characters. It’s the kind of idea the press tends to love, so it should result in extra publicity for the event. We could also use put the photos into a book or calendar or even postcards to collect to help directly raise funds. The authors would be allowed to use the images for their own publicity purposes, so long as the Festival and I were given credit each time. Importantly, it also sounded like a lot of fun.
I put the idea to the Festival organisers and they were quite taken with the idea, offering to help in any way they could, and finding me an empty shop, which I can use as a studio space for the duration. Additionally I was able to enlist the help of author, storyteller and good friend, Renita Boyle, who is one of life’s great doers. Where I have a tendency to ponder ideas and philosophise about everything, Renita will phone contacts, pull in favours and get things done. A better ally for this project would have been extremely hard to find.
So far we’ve recruited about a dozen authors who I will be photographing during the event, with characters as diverse as The Mad Hatter to Isaac Newton, and the Cat with the Fiddle to Miss Scarlet in the Library with the Candlestick.
As the authors have been suggesting characters they would like to be photographed as, we’ve had to start tracking down costumes and props. Some have been easy to find, some of the authors have managed to sort out their own, some bits have been tricky, and some we’re not going to know whether we’ve got them until the very last minute.
If all goes according to plan, we’re hoping to rope in a few more authors during the Festival, either to photograph there and then (if we have appropriate bits of costume to hand), or elicit promises to arrange a photo shoot at some point over the next few months. Then, with enough photos, they can be used for a big publicity drive on the build up to the Wigtown Book Festival 2013, with any saleable items available during the event itself.
It all kicks off tomorrow. If I get the chance I will try and blog about some of the things that happen, but if you don’t hear from me for the next couple of weeks, you’ll know where I am.
Wish me luck…