Close encounters

To me Chris Close and his ‘backstage’ photos of authors at the Edinburgh International Book Festival are the bookfest to a great extent. I didn’t know who he was when I stumbled over to the press yurt the first time, in 2009. Chris had only just started his long quest then, and it’s been a pleasure seeing him at work every summer since.

Chris Close, Between the Lines

If you walk round Charlotte Square you will see his photos, displayed wherever there is a free space. You might go to an event and hear one of his ‘victims’ talk about books, or you could see them walking round the square if you are lucky. But you probably won’t have any idea of how Chris works. That he’s limited to a white sheet on the side of one of the large theatre tents, and that he has all of us milling about behind his back as he chats to the authors and makes them do the strangest things.

I have watched him read the list of today’s guests, deciding which of them seem the most interesting or unusual, and then asking if they will pose for him. And it’s fun to see Chris discover someone unusually outlandish looking, someone he couldn’t have imagined from merely reading the programme. Someone like Steve Cole who, dressed as Spiderman, jumped and cavorted until Chris had his shot. [not in the book]

Steve Cole

I like the way Chris chats to the authors, sometimes showing that he knows something about his prey – or has read up on them – and occasionally learning as he shoots. The whole concept of how he takes these photographs is great. It seems simple, and you wonder why no one thought of it before.

And equally obvious is the idea of a book of the best pictures. When I saw that Chris was publishing one, I knew I had to have a copy. To me Between the Lines is the best possible memento of summers in Charlotte Square. I wouldn’t mind one every year.

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