Several years ago the International Puppetry Museum Board formed a committee to ensure the creation of a commemorative book of photographs in celebration of Alan Cook’s 80th birthday. We decided to focus on the North American puppets in the Cook/Marks Puppet Collection – leaving the international figures for a second book. At my request and because I have experience in book publication, the entire project became my responsibility.
The first task was to cull through the vast IPM database to select puppet treasures for photographing. Many difficult choices had to be made but finally the list was pared to about two hundred figures and sent to IPM in Pasadena where it was met with consternation. The volunteer staff was preparing to move the entire collection to the Northwest Puppet Center in Seattle with Dimtra Carter as curator/conservator. They simply didn't have time or energy to search out the quantity of puppets on the “Wish List.” So the book project came to a near halt until the bulk of the collection had been relocated.
When the last large truckload arrived in Seattle last Spring, Dimitri and I decided to schedule the photography for September as it would give him time to locate the puppets on my list. Meanwhile I decided to photograph our own puppets as a trial exercise and to work out an efficient method for photographing so many figures in the shortest possible time.
When I arrived in Seattle in early September, more than half requested puppets were waiting and as I worked, Dimitri looked for the others. The problem was, although each box had a list of the figures it was supposed to contain, many times the puppet we wanted wasn’t there. But we’d discover other exciting figures which were then photographed.
For me, the session was like an extended Christmas morning. Each box revealed historic figures and it was an honour and privilege to pose them for the camera. For example, we found five exquisite puppets from the Tatterman Marionettes’ production of “S_h_e_ _S_t_o_o_p_s_ _t_o_ _C_o_n_q_u_e_r_”, a play I hadn’t known they had produced.
Jackee Marks and her daughter, Lisa arrived a week after the photography session began. An efficient routine had been established so they photographed Dimitri and myself as we worked for publicity pictures. Lisa also gathered information for the IPM website. Two days later Alan Cook and Mary Decker arrived and Mary began interviewing Alan for anecdotes to be included in the book.
In all, 257 puppets were photographed in nine days and I am now sorting through the 3000+ images in the computer. (Thank goodness for digital photography. The cost of color film and processing would have been prohibitive.) While I work on the images, Mary and other members of the committee are interviewing Alan for his stories of the puppets and puppeteers. These will be in sidebars accompanying the color portraits.
The next major problem will be to finance the initial printing of a limited edition of the book. A fund raising campaign was started two years ago at Alan’s 80th Birthday Celebration but less than half the needed amount has been gathered. Further donations are needed to ensure the book is published. Next step will be to gather information about the book to present to publishers and to work out a budget.