Over the (nearly) ten years I spent at Lancaster Literature Festival (Litfest for short) I was fortunate enough to have had opportunity to photograph a great many writers. I was reminded of this just recently when I was commissioned to do some new portraits for two local writers. Most of the Litfest writers were local or North West based, and were being published by Litfest through its’ Flax Books or Foxtail Books publishing arms. Others we were working with on various projects, others were festival guests and others just dropped by! Some I missed and now regret not snapping.
The Flax portraits all have a similar feel to them, as the process for taking them was always the same. Everyone published by Flax was offered a profile page on the Litfest website, with biography, interview, a list of publications and a set of images for publicity purposes. Flax editor Sarah Hymas, Designer Martin Chester and myself decided that to give a more natural and uniform feel to the photos, everyone would be shot candidly in a plain, well-lit room whilst being interviewed by Sarah. No flash, no studio lights, no backdrops. This style was maintained through several years of publications and for me it was totally invaluable. I learnt much of my craft as a portrait photographer in these sessions. So much of the process is about making a connection, putting people at ease, freeing them from the fear of being photographed. Sarah was great at this and it left me largely free to snap away. But as we did more of these sessions, I grew in confidence and I can see when I look back at them, the progression I was making as a photographer. My eye improved, my kit got better, my reactions got sharper. I listened more closely, I joined in the conversations. I observed more carefully. I engaged. In short, I developed a style of my own. And now, even though I generally work alone, it’s still how I like to approach a subject. Whether it’s a commission or a personal project, we talk a lot throughout the session, I want people to feel relaxed, comfortable, perhaps let their guard down a little. No flash, no studio, natural light. I know they won’t forget the camera looking at them completely, but momentarily maybe?
Here’s a (very) small and random selection of some of my writer pictures (old and new) …
These and other of my author portraits are available to licence through WriterPictures.com, a specialist literary picture agency. I am available to book for head-shots and portrait sessions (prices start at £100 and include a £30 voucher to spend on image files of your choice). See my portraiture page for more details.