“Can you shoot a few portraits for a French client, of some Scottish crime writers?” was the message. “Oui, c’est bon!” I replied.
Back in March this year I met up with French journalist Julie of Le Point magazine, and we travelled between Glasgow, Bothwell, and Edinburgh for the photography assignment. Julie’s article’s premise was “Scotland, war of the clans?”, the idea that she would enquire of our Scottish crime writers what the differences were between Glasgow-based crime stories and writing and those which were Edinburgh-based, and their feelings about the Tartan Noir label, as crime writing from Scotland has become known.
First on our hit list was Christopher Brookmyre, based just outside Glasgow in Bothwell. We interviewed him in a dark room of his house, but with enough light from through the shutters to shoot a portrait. And then up to Bothwell Castle, for the Scottish castle touch, a request from the picture desk to keep the images very “Scottish”.
From Bothwell, we journeyed to Edinburgh, and met and interviewed three more writers over the course of a couple of days.
No journey into Edinburgh crime writing would be complete without meeting up with Irvine Welsh, interviewed and photographed in the new town, sadly not in his native Leith. The bar we met to conduct the interview wasn’t great for a portrait shoot, so having had a look before meeting I settled on photographing Welsh down a local alleyway nearby.
Onwards from that shoot, to meet the doyen of Scottish crime writing, Ian Rankin in The Oxford Bar. I’m not sure how many times Rankin has been photographed in the pub made famous by his Edinburgh detective Inspector Rebus, but I’d never photographed him there. So all was good, and beers on expenses.
Last but not least in our repertoire of writers was Val McDermid, again in Edinburgh. Keeping the ‘Scottish’ photo brief in mind we staked out a backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, with Val’s red jacket resplendent against the stonework of old Edinburgh.
So a lovely assignment, photographing authors I’d photographed previously, but this time in new locations. The final layout of the images in the magazine wasn’t all I hoped for, but what can you do, c’est la vie.
See all portraits of Scottish crime writers here.