Debi Gliori is a children’s author and illustrator with at least 75 published books to her name, the latest of which is called The Tobermory Cat, loosely based on a stray ginger tom that was well known about the town of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, off the West coast of Scotland.
As something of a local celebrity, the cat was even given a Facebook page by a local artist, Angus Stewart, who photographed the cat, made up wee stories about him and posted them online.
Debi’s publisher became aware of the cat on one of his many trips to the island while in conversation with a local bookstore owner and thought it might make a lovely children’s story and approached Debi to create one.
What should have been a delightful project, which might have boosted positive publicity for the Tobermory, Debi, the cat and Angus, all turned sour when Angus accused Debi of stealing his idea and started a campaign against her, the publisher and the book. And as word spread from this one-sided perspective, some Internet trolls fuelled by a sense of righteous indignation, or just plain malice, got rather nasty – initiating cyber attacks, phone calls, insults and threats. You can read Debi’s own account of events on her blog - The Tobermory Cat, the trolls and me.
I found out about all this when I was at the Wigtown Book Festival a few weeks back (see - Return to Wigtown Book Festival) with a new project to photograph authors as literary characters. The Festival organisers had put out feelers to the authors attending to see who might be up for getting involved, and Debi was one of about a dozen who responded.
Debi decided she’d choose the character of The Cat and the Fiddle from the nursery rhyme, as not only did it fit in nicely with part of the story from her new book, but she also plays the fiddle herself.
The Festival had provided me with an empty shop I could use as a studio, so we fixed a time in the evening when it would be dark outside and I could control the lighting.
I set up a single light to cast a strong shadow and I photographed Debi sitting on a stool reading the book. We then removed the stool and book, fitted a little band with cat ears on it to her head and she took up a stance with her violin to create the shadow we wanted to use. Working collaboratively is part of what I love about creating images via the camera, and Debi was a delight to work with – interested, involved and contributing ideas all the way.
Then it was down to some serious editing in Photoshop to merge the two images and add a tail.
This was the final result:
Debi Gliori, The Cat and The Fiddle
Thanks also have to go to Renita Boyle for all her help and support.
I’ll be posting more photos from the series of authors as literary characters over the coming weeks – stay tuned...