A collection turned book: An interview with the self-published author of A Collection of Courtenay Heraldic and Historical Figures, Robert Hill
A collector is a seeker, a hunter, and an organizer. Looking at an amassed collection reveals as much about the person who acquired and cataloged it as it does about the items themselves. Which is why we sat down with Robert Hill to ask him why he took to his camera to document some 500 figures collected by someone else in A Collection of Courtenay Heraldic and Historical Figures. Hill shared his experience behind the lens documenting collections and what he’s learned about what motivates the collectors.
Why do you photograph collections?
I like photographing toy soldiers—model knights being my favorite. My first book, A Collection of Courtenay Heraldic and Historical Figures, is a record of an amazing collection of Richard Courtenay (1892–1963) figures collected over many years by John Gilliatt. Putting his collection into a book creates a lasting record—not just for just him, but for his family in the future.
Do you collect anything yourself?
Yes, I have always collected. As a child, I wanted to have the best collection of marbles and dinky cars. Today, I have collections of toy soldiers, toy cars, model airplanes, and—as I'm a photographer—lots of cameras.
“To date, there is no other publication showing such a complete record of his life's work and I hope other collectors use it as a reference for their own collections.”
What do you learn about people when photographing their collections?
All collectors have a passion for their subject. So much research goes in to their collection, and most are very eager to pass on information.
What was your hope for the book?
This collection shows the breadth of amazing figures designed and painted by Richard Courtenay. To date, there is no other publication showing such a complete record of his life's work and I hope other collectors use it as a reference for their own collections.
How did others react to the book?
I had great feedback from lots of people who bought a copy. Many commented on the quality reproduction of the photographs (thank you to Blurb for that), which generated more sales. To be honest, I loved making this book—from photography all the way through to page design, choosing typefaces, and getting to that first proof. It’s great fun!
Any other books in the works?
My next book will be another collection of Toy Knights by Selwyn Smith, smaller in scale, though, as he was not as prolific as Richard Courtenay.