Sunday, November 04, 2012

Debi Gliori, Tobermory, Cats, Controversy and Photography

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...


angryparsnip said...

I think that has to be my favorite photo of yours ever !

As for Angus unless the cat was his... he doesn't really have any claim.
It seems like even Scotland is not immune to the call of suing everyone and anyone, like we have in America.

Now off to look at her blog.

cheers, parsnip

hope said...

You are truly a magician of magical images!

Kim Ayres said...

Parsnip - There is no copyright on titles or ideas. The silly thing is, anyone who knows anything about creativity also knows ideas are not the problem - ideas are all around us all the time. The difference with the creative person is what they DO with the idea - the time, effort and energy they put into their creativity. Consider the teacher who gives the pupils a title to write an essay - each kid comes up with a different story. The only time it's an issue is if someone copies someone else's story word for word. Another example is there are 34 different movies or TV series with the title "The Awakening", but they are not all remakes of the same film :)

Hope - thank you for your kind words :)

Hindsfeet said...

now *that*, my friend, is *brilliant*!!

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you Liz :)

Guyana-Gyal said...

That is one coooool cat photo, Kim!

At first, I misread what you'd written and I thought that the publisher had gotten the idea for the book from the chap's facebook pictures and stories.

But now I see that the publisher had gotten the idea from one of the locals.

There's no copyright on a cat that everybody knows.

Come to think of it, even I'd written a roaming cat story for a pre-teen Moscow girl I used to tutor when she was living here.

Pat said...

I have no truck with trolls of any kind. Spoilers all.
However a tiny part of me feels for Angus - I can understand his disappointment - but then one has to get over it move on.

Pat said...

I still don't understand how you did the photo but it is very effective.

Kim Ayres said...

GG - I think if it had been his own cat, it might have made a bit of difference, otherwise it's like 2 different people writing stories about a particular landmark.

Pat - I can see where he was coming from, even if I disagree with him. Personally I think he missed a real opportunity when the publisher said he'd advertise Angus's work on the back of the book.

As for the photo - it's a combination of 2 images - Debi sitting down, and the shadow of Debi standing up playing the fiddle :)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Why didn't Angus publish his book too? He has PHOTOS of the real cat. And his own stories.

Kim Ayres said...

He has -

LegalMist said...


Kim Ayres said...

Legalmist - thanks :)