Portraits celebrate B.C.’s literary treasures

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder News

Monday, November 12 2012

Most pictures speak 1,000 words, but the portraits that fill the pages of 111 West Coast Literary Portraits have a few more than that embedded in them.
Out from Salt Spring Island press Mother Tongue Publishing last month, the book features photographic portraits of 111 emerging, mid-career and well-known writers who have lived in B.C.
Two Gabriolans, Katherine Gordon and George Szanto, number among the selected writers, who were photographed by Barry Peterson and Blaise Enright.
The project began as a travelling show called Lit Happens back in 1998. The photographers shot each author in black and white and for the book Barry shot on film and hand-processed the prints in his own darkroom.
Katherine and George were both photographed by Barry in the summer of 2011 at their homes on Gabriola, Katherine in her greenhouse and George inside and outside his house.
For Katherine, the experience was “in some ways ... odd and uncomfortable. It’s immensely flattering of course, but I spent quite a bit of time beforehand wondering what kind of image would best represent me....
“To stand alongside some amazing British Columbian authors in this way makes me feel proud, delighted of course to be acknowledged this way, and even more fortunate – a book like this could include far more than 111 authors.”
George was also flattered to be included in the book and to be given the opportunity to showcase his work in such a unique manner.
Each portrait in the book is accompanied by a short excerpt of the writer’s work.
Katherine chose a selection  from her essay that was included in the anthology Imagining British Columbia: Land, Memory and Place, and is one of her favourite pieces she has written.
“I wrote about Gabriola Island and the nature of finding home in an unexpected place.
“I wanted to find a piece that would really reflect something fundamental about me and how I feel about Gabriola Island as my home.”
George’s portrait is accompanied by a portion of the beginning of his novel, The Underside of Stones, the second book in The Conquests of Mexico trilogy.
“It’s fairly exemplary of the kind of writing that I do – it’s a bit of writing that I like very much.”
A reception will be held at the Nanaimo Museum on Nov. 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. with Barry and publisher Mona Fertig. Katherine, George and other authors will read their excerpts from the book. Several of the portraits will also hang in the museum until Jan. 31, 2013.