Æ Blog – Quinn’s Pics Peek Behind EIF Scenes

Feb 11 2011 | By More

Looking behind the scenes of EIF 2010 with Claudine Quinn’s photographic exhibition at The Hub

The interval bell at the Usher Hall Photo credit: Claudine Quinn

2010 24/7
A Festival in photographs

By Thom Dibdin

A festival is an ephemeral thing, as EIF Artistic Director Jonathan Mills commented at the opening of this fascinating exhibition up at the EIF’s HQ: The Hub.

That is, of course, its charm. The sense of being at something unique, a sequence of events that can not be repeated. Yet there is a regret that tinges this feeling. The feeling that you would, actually, quite like to be able to look back at what went on.

The lighting area for the Gospel at Colonus at the Playhouse Photo credit: Claudine Quinn

All hail, then, to the person who thought of creating the role of Official Festival Photographer. Not just of creating the role itself, but in giving it to a young photographer who is chosen by both their portfolio and an interview, and let loose on the whole wonderful shebang. Not just the public events that you and I can buy tickets for. Nor, even, the private parties where the privileged few get to meet the artistes.

The Official Photographer’s remit is far wider. They go where even the privileged few are not invited: to the rehearsals, backstage, up into the fly-towers, down into the pits, around the wings and through the warm-ups. It is a chance for a young, inventive eye to be cast on the whole event, to see things freshly which the cynical old snappers might quietly deride.

Rehearsal for Bliss at the Festival Theatre Photo credit: Claudine Quinn

Last year’s photographer, Claudine Quinn, has a fantastic eye. Meeting her at the launch it was quite clear why she got the job, with her easy manner and comfortable charm. Over the three weeks she took thousands upon thousands of photographs, they were whittled down to a few hundred images, and just 35 got chosen to grace the walls of The Hub for the next few months. Of course the remaining thousands are logged and go into the EIF archive.

Now in her final year at Edinburgh College of Art, Claudine was chosen for her “superb photographic talent, her energy, humour and enthusiasm, her ability to put people at ease, and her natural eye to seek out the detail which makes her extensive collection of photos from Festival 2010 so very valuable.”

Behind the scenes at Caledonia Photo credit: Claudine Quinn

That’s strong support, but the pictures do hold up to the promise. She has succeeded in showing something of how the whole festival comes together and then spreads out through the whole city. She looks at the mundane – such as the interval bell which is rung before the start of every performance and at the end of every inerval at the Usher Hall. It’s an integral part of the whole experience of going to the Usher Hall, and is one of my favourites.

She looks at the atmospheric – such as her own favourite, the behind the scenes view of the King’s during the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Caledonia. A mightily flawed piece that looked at the Darien Disaster, in which potted palm-trees were flown over the stage during the second half. Quinn’s picture gives an inkling of the designer, director or maybe even the writer’s resolve to carry on with them – even though to the front of house they made the stage look like something from a jaded Agatha Christie hot-house scene.

The Lady Provost meets a Blind Boy of Alabama Photo credit: Claudine Quinn

Then there are those timeless pictures, such as this snap of Edinburgh’s Provost with one of the Blind Boys of Alabama. It’s the photograph which Jonathan Mills identifies as his favourite, simply because it exemplifies the work which the Provost puts into the event, putting on the bling and meeting and greeting the participants. Which might not seem so much effort, but is the sort of thing which helps differentiate the EIF from the other festivals around the world. The more edge we have, the better the quality of performer we will get – and these simple things are exactly what can help swing decisions in Edinburgh’s favour.

And it must be said, the Provost looks chuffed to bits to be there!

The choir for El Nino up behind the stage in the Usher Hall. Photo credit: Claudine Quinn

The EIF’s own Flickr stream has 27 pictures taken by Quinn over the festival. Only a few are in the actual exhibition, so it is still worth while taking time to pop into The Hub, if you are in the vicinity.

A huge round of applause should also be given to the Morton Charitable Trust which collaborates with the Festival to award a young photographer this exciting opportunity. It is the generous support which  ensures that a wider view of the Festival is captured for posterity.

“We feel it is important that a record is made not only of the stunning performances on stage, but of as much of the off-stage activity as we are able to capture.” says a spokesman, pointing out the Morton Charitable Trust is continuing to support both the position of Festival Photographer and this exhibition opportunity for a young photographer into the future. Adding: “The Festival thanks the Trustees for their vision and commitment, to both the Festival and the young photographers who go on this amazing adventure with us.”

EIF Flickr stream with photos from EIF 2010

EIF Website


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  1. Young Snapper Sought for EIF 2012 « Æ Annals of Edinburgh Stage | Feb 6 2012
  1. terry says:

    Well, there’s literally a few pictures of the back of the stage and some obvious pr events – it’s not really striking me as some novel visual interpretation of the festival thats going to re-energise the ‘brand’ or whatever. It just looks like the usual boring event photography, which seems a strange thing to force on an Art student, who’s obviously above that level.