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Photographing Book Signings

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

I love photographing book signings and authors with their books and I know over the years some of my friends have really appreciated pictures from their events.

JOHN LIDDY signing Arias of Consolation

While I had spent time working as a journalist covering local events and photographing some of them too, it wasn't until Michael D Higgins' Galway launch of Causes for Concerns that I really appreciated how enjoyable it can be to get a few snaps of people signing books.

The local papers in Galway had no interest in my photographs at the time but Michael D certainly did and I always found it incredible that the former Minister of Art, Culture and the Gaeltacht didn't have more photographs from his political career in the Seanad and Dáil Éireann.

In a pre-digital age before smart phones existed, there was little opportunity to capture and share such moments, and now I am sure President Higgins probably wishes that less people had camera phones and wanted a picture with him.

He confessed his disappointment about the lack of photographs he had from his time as a minister and you can imagine that his albums should be full of pictures with stars like Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson as well as Irish artists and international politicians.

CAUSES OF CONCERN: Don't let cameras concern you.

I was asked to be his campaign photographer during the 2011 Presidential Elections with the sentence, "Morgan, you've a camera, don't ya?"

We all have cameras and it has never been easier to get a picture with your favourite author or a picture at a book signing. Well, maybe don't tell Stephen King that you are his biggest fan but do consider capturing the moment and ask permission before snapping away.

Try get a picture of the book if possible which is easier said than done as the book is usually open when they are signing but frame a poster or some of the other books if you can.

While taking pictures at the book fair in Madrid, I asked to place some of the books in the foreground of my photos.

ACCESSIBILITY: Keep an arm's length from the author but try place some books in your shot.

In one photograph, you can see someone reaching for John Liddy's latest book as John was signing some books and I was delighted that I positioned the books in a prominent position where some of Michael Morpurgo's books had been placed.

The late Séamus MacAogáin signing books about the Irish Midlands

It's not easy to get close to someone busy signing books with lots of people gathered around them but I do really enjoy getting shots close to the action. I got some really nice pictures of a friend's book launch in Madrid a few years ago, and the picture above appeared in some newspapers in the Midlands, and it was also the one I used when writing a tribute to him when he passed away last month.

I can imagine that writers have worked very hard to get to the point of publishing their work and presenting it to the paying public and those signatures on their books can probably mean the world to them as well as their readers.

Sadly, my late friend Séamus MacAogáin's final book arrived in the post about a week ago, and I will never get the chance for him to sign it.

When I worked for Michael D Higgins, 15 years ago, digital photography was a possibility and I carried a small Canon compact camera with me and a DSLR camera at events such as his book launches. I got one really nice picture with Michael D and Senator David Norris and the picture later gave me the excuse to contact Senator Norris about Joycean projects such as The Groundhog Day Challenge.

By the time the presidential elections took place in 2011, many people were sharing images from their iPhone 4s while I was still carrying a large laptop and heavy camera around on the campaign trail for something that can fit easily in your pocket.

This week I had the opportunity to follow and photograph John Liddy, a poet from Limerick who just launched his new book Arias of Consolation but maybe I should track down some more writers who would like to record their big book signing moment for posterity.

SAFE DISTANCE: Keep your distance, respect people's space, and do ask permission. In the picture above you can see that I have framed the author by people waiting to get their books signed but I haven't included their faces as I hadn't asked their permission.

BOOK BEHIND HIS BACK: By chance I captured this person holding the book the right way towards me.

Arias of Consolation was published by Revival Press and is available now.

Supported by

UNESCO City of Literature

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