Robyn Stapleton is an extraordinarily talented singer of traditional Scots and Irish songs.
Last year she won BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year and in Spring this year she released her debut album, Fickle Fortune.
I met Robyn last autumn when she took part in the photography I was doing for the Macmath project. Then earlier this year I received a phone call from her.
She had completed recording her album but didn't feel she had the right photo for the cover and wondered if I might be able to help.
Initially we talked about a narrative image, perhaps taking inspiration from one of the songs on the album - skipping barefoot through the heather had obvious appeal, but we were at the wrong time of year to make that happen.
We discussed the style of the music and the audience she was hoping to attract, which included keeping one eye on the international market (about 5 million people live in Scotland, but there are about 40 million people who live outwith Scotland who call themselves Scottish, or of Scottish descent).
Robyn has been blessed with striking Celtic looks - pale skin, blue eyes and wonderful curly red hair. In terms of branding for the music she sings, it doesn't get much better - so the more I thought about it, the more a close up headshot seemed to be the way to go. A simple, yet striking portrait.
These things are never as quick and easy as many people think they are, and the shoot took 2 or 3 hours as we played with lighting and expressions - although quite early on we realised a particular lighting style gave a painterly quality we liked. Far more time than the photo shoot was then taken in the editing afterwards as I played with subtle shifts in light, shadow and tone to enhance the effect we were after.
Robyn Stapleton by Kim Ayres
To say I was pleased with it would be an understatement - it captured everything I set out for, and then some. Fortunately Robyn was delighted with it too.
It's always a little bit odd, to see something I've created on a physical album cover, rather than in the back of the camera or on a computer screen. After it leaves my hands and is sent to the graphic designer, more adjustments are made to the image for style and practical considerations before sending it to print, so it's never identical. But I was thrilled to see it has worked out so well and had the impact we were seeking.
Fickle Fortune by Robyn Stapleton
I'm also delighted to tell you it sounds amazing too.
For more about Robyn Stapleton, here are her web and Facebook addresses: