26th November 2020
A closer look at York
One of our members, Catherine Sotheran, writes about her passion for photography. It's fascinating to hear how she's harnessed her interests and skills to produce three books. An idea for a Christmas present perhaps, for someone with an interest in the little known features of York.
I've always enjoyed taking photos as a record of where I'd been on holidays and days out, but then a few years ago I gave up work and found the Facebook group York Past & Present. Inspired by photos posted by some of the members I started taking photos around York.
I was not very happy with my attempts at what I think of as the picture postcard views, so I started to photograph the smaller details to be seen around York. I posted some of these in themes on the group and people seemed to like what I was doing, which encouraged me to go and find more subjects. Because they were often things that went unnoticed I was asked if I did walks to show people where they were. I worked out some routes which took in lots of the features I'd photographed and took small groups out. I really enjoyed showing people parts of York they didn't know and teaching them to look up above the shop windows which is often where the most interesting things are.
Then people started saying I should do a book, an idea which I initially dismissed, but then looked into it more. I found one of the photobook sites that enables you to do a print at home version. Using their software I started putting a book together, with the photos arranged in themes such as clocks, doors, lamps, foundation stones, rainwater hoppers etc, and ended up with 22 subjects. I showed the draft book to several people and they all liked it.
My next issue was how to produce a commercial version. Having no idea how to find a publisher and having done a bit of research I decided to try the self-publishing route, This was simply a case of sending a PDF file to be printed and bound. The result was York in Close Up, an A4 landscape format book, which I always thought of as a coffee table book. It has a key at the back showing in which streets each feature can be found.
After getting a new camera with a really good zoom lens, my next focus became the Minster. Having amassed a vast number of photos of the grotesques and other carved figures, I started putting another book together. When I sorted out the photos into similar themes and locations on the Minster, I decided I'd like to try and find out more about the carvings. I found frustratingly little in print about them, but got in touch with the Minster Stoneyard and the Master Mason, John David, who proved to be very enthusiastic about the idea of the book. I was able to meet up with a couple of the carvers, who were able to give me some information about the carvers, dates and subjects of some of the more recent figures. York Minster in Close Up: the Exterior is the same format as the first book, with a key at the back, with locations on the building and any information I was able to find out.
For my next project I went back to the first book, but wanted something more convenient to carry around, so came up with the idea of an A5 spiral bound book, with self-guided versions of the walks I'd been doing with people over the last few years. The resulting York in Close Up: the Walks contains a four part circular walk round the centre of York and three walks that go a bit further out. It includes over 1,000 photos, but this time in the order you'll see them on the walks, with directions on where to find them all. This isn't a conventional guide book about the major sites and grand buildings. It shows you lots of little details which you might not have noticed.
The books are currently only available directly from me. I can be contacted by email at email@example.com or through Facebook at http://facebook.com/catherine.sotheran/. They are all £15 + £2.50 p & p, though I may be able to either deliver locally for free or meet somewhere central, cash on collection.