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STORYTELLER ‘I am a storyteller, not a documentarist,’ says photographer Kim Ayres, the bouzouki-playing former businessman who specialises in creating images with impact WORDS ANDREA THOMPSON PHOTOGRAPHY KIM AYRES


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The Wedding Dress


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Kim Ayres


Wigtown Book Festival artist-inresidence, a Spring Fling regular and a member of the Galloway Photographic Collective, Kim Ayres’ work as a photographer is wellknown across the region. In carving out a niche for himself as a creator of “epic images” he is keen to dispel some of the clichés surrounding photography, specifically: “the camera never lies” and the popular “a picture speaks a thousand words.” “‘The camera never lies’ is the biggest piece of bullsh*t; a far more accurate picture is ‘the camera never tells the truth’,” says Kim. “You’re not just capturing something in 3-D into 2-D; it’s four dimensions into two because you experience people in time. You don’t have a single image of someone; we layer lots of different impressions and moods and to think that you can sum up a single person in a photo is like trying to sum up an opera or a piece of music in a note. It only makes sense in context. When you look at a photo you need to have context; you make an impression, you have nothing else to go on other than the photo. “So what’s the truth? There is no truth – photography is storytelling, then you get much closer to what it is as a medium. You can’t get the literal truth; our brains look at a photo and superimpose the truth on to it.” And as for “a picture speaks a thousand words” - Kim says: “To be honest, this is usually something of an exaggeration; most rarely speak more than six. And these six-word photographs are now everywhere. Everyone has a camera on their phone, with which they are taking selfies and photos of their dinner and posting them on Facebook. “These days there is a greater need than ever before to have images that create an impact: photographs which grab your attention and make you want to look at them again and again.” For Kim, the image which first grabbed him – and indeed provided the ‘eureka!’ moment which determined the direction he was to take his work in - was his picture of local poet David Mark Williams, taken in 2009 (see our contents page). “It was way ahead of anything I had ever done before,” he says. “This, more than any other photo I’d taken, made me realise it was faces and people that fascinated me most as a subject matter. Up until then, I was taking a far broader range of subjects, trying my hand at landscapes, flowers, macro etc, but after this I started specialising in portraits.” Kim’s fascination with people’s faces – which has evolved into a fascination with people’s fantasies – is evident from his work as artist-inresidence at Wigtown Book Festival 2011, where he took 173 portraits of authors, visitors and residents – all asked to give him a “hard stare into the camera” which were printed and hung on the studio walls. Viewers were forced to reinterpret their initial impressions thanks to the names of well-known books each subject gave.


Kim Ayre

The following year Kim took a series of photographs of authors as literary characters, including poet and comedian John Hegley as John Keats and author Sara Sheridan as Miss Scarlet in the Library with The Candlestick. The images appear in the Wigtown Book Festival 2014 calendar. For last year’s Spring Fling, Kim went film-noir with his ‘I’m Humphrey Bogart and so’s my Wife’ event - for which Alice Francis was his poster girl – photographing people of all ages, from a two-year-old to a 90-year-old, as the Hollywood icon in trench coat and trilby. With a fascination with bringing fantasies to life – for a photo story at least – Kim is now inviting people to “be the hero, heroine or villain of your own epic image constructed entirely for you. “There are no limits to what can be achieved by a skilled photographer, the right props, costumes and location and a bit of Photoshop editing.”

‘The best photos – and the ones I am most pleased with - are the ones you can read on several levels’


im loves the challenge of bringing all the different elements together to create the story and says: “the best photos – and the ones I am most pleased with - are the ones you can read on several levels like poetry, with multiple interpretations.” There’s certainly much to ponder over in The Undefended Hour, the picture used on the back cover of a book of poetry written (the themes of which mostly surround sex, death and humour) by Anne Lindsay from Kirkcudbright. She’s the woman applying the lipstick. Another of his favourites is of Gina Lawson as action hero Lara Croft, taken as a surprise birthday present for her husband Mark. The story behind the photo shoot, including finding the perfect atmospheric location in the middle of nowhere, and making flaming torches, is fascinating. “It’s not necessarily about creating an exact replica of a scene, it’s about creating the mood. I conspire with people and give them permission

Alice Francis as Humphrey Bogart

John Hegley as John Keats


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‘I like that the people I am doing the shoots with are having fun; it’s about the experience’ to indulge in their dream, their fantasy; whether it’s to be a biker, Rapunzel, Audrey Hepburn, the Lady of Shalott, Lara Croft or an Olympic shot putter. I’m not going to judge. “I get a thrill out of helping people to feel better about themselves. I like that the people I am doing the shoots with are having fun; it’s not just about the photo; it’s the experience that’s absolutely crucial - at the end when you look at the photo you will remember the experience; you will remember being a star for the day.” Two women who certainly loved being the star of their own Kim Ayres’s fantasy photo shoots are competition winners Isobel, and Rebecca Giblin. Isobel is the star of The Wedding Dress (previous page), a stunning image in which she wears her red velvet wedding dress teamed with wellies, taken as part of the prize Kim donated for a Galloway Photographic Collective fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Care. Rebecca is in After The Show, winning the photo shoot in Kim’s Valentine’s Facebook competition. “Photography allows us the ultimate dressing up box,” says Kim, who, as a musician and a performer, also loves taking performance photography. A bouzouki and mandolin player, he is a member of The Cracked Man, having previously played with Scruffy Buzzards. Originally from Cornwall, Kim, 47, moved to Castle Douglas nine years ago and lives with his wife, Spring Fling artist Maggie Ayres, and their daughter Meg, 16. Son Rogan, 18, is away at university, and his three older stepchildren left home a few years ago. A philosophy graduate, Kim sold limited edition prints of his dad Donald Ayres’s paintings before setting up a web design company in the Central Belt, which he sold in 2004 when he “got fed up with being a businessman”. “I was always going to be a writer: novels, short stories and fantasises,” says Kim, who started a blog which is still running, and which brought him to the attention of researchers for BBC Alba, looking to make a programme about people living with ME. For the programme, Kim underwent Mickel Therapy, a talking-based treatment developed by Dr David Mickel, and he says the strategies he learned certainly helped him cope with his epic 10-day stints at Wigtown Book Festival and the hectic Spring Fling weekends. He is looking forward to explaining the ideas behind his “images with impact” at this year’s event, from May 24-26. See Kim Ayres at Spring Fling, at Studio 24 on the Purple Route, 30 King Street, Castle Douglas, DG7 1AA., kimayresphotography on Facebook and

‘It’s great being part of a team that makes a difference to young people’ Sara Sheridan as Miss Scarlet in the Library with the Candlestick

‘It’s great being part of a team that makes a difference to young people’ The Undefended Hour starring author Anne Lindsay

Gina Lawson as action hero Lara Croft

After the Show starring Rebecca Giblin DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY LIFE / MAY 2014

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D&G Life: Storyteller - Kim Ayres