Monday, 23 March 2020

Byrne & Swinton's Guide to Edinburgh

Back in December 2018 I spent a few days in Edinburgh, courtesy of one my partner's academic gigs. On the last day I had a brief encounter in the Royal Scottish Academy with painter and playwright John Byrne and actor Tilda Swinton [1], which resulted in this snapshot portrait of the two. You may recall that I had a little fun cutting them out and posing them in front of a couple of different Edinburgh backdrops.

For some reason, this week I felt like revisiting those pictures, and in particular that idea of dropping the celebrated pair in front of various Edinburgh scenes. I could see there was the potential for a book of some kind there: I suppose in the back of my mind was the example of Willy Puchner's book, Penguins – Traveling the World (K├Ânemann, 1999), in which he posed a pair of large model penguins in front of tourist sights worldwide (actually posed them, that is, not transported them by the magic of collage, which in the digital rear-view mirror of 2020 strikes one as mildly insane).

It would be nothing grand – these were all taken with my tiny "travel compact" Fuji X20, after all – but a home-made accordion-fold book might work, perhaps, or maybe even one of Blurb's little "trade books". Like me, I expect you have been receiving a flurry of emails from various utilities, services, and suppliers, laying out their responses to the corona virus crisis, and being as reassuring as possible under the circumstances; for their own benefit, I suspect, as much as anyone else's. Blurb has been no exception and, as I value the service they provide (and worry that their frequent discount sales indicate underlying financial problems), I feel inclined to support them by sending a little more business their way, so the latter is most likely.

But first, as proof of concept, I thought a poster-style layout of a few might be useful:

Actually, I was surprised how many usable "backdrop" views of Edinburgh I'd come away with after just 2½ days at the darkest time of year, and so far I have assembled twenty-four, which is more than enough, really, for such a slight idea. Like so many slight ideas, of course, it may or may not come to fruition, but I like the sort of flicker-book way the couple in front remain absolutely static, while the background behind them constantly changes.

1. And friend of John Berger: if you're a Berger fan, it's worth getting hold of the DVD of The Seasons in Quincy: four portraits of John Berger, in which Swinton has conversations with the grand old man of writing about art, shortly before his death.

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