Getting to Know Kieran E Scott

September 25th 2020

Kieran E. Scott is a highly acclaimed New Zealand photographer whose work appears in more than forty books, most famously the cook books of many of New Zealand’s top chefs, including Josh Emett, Al BrownChelsea Winter, Nadia Lim and Simon Gault.

For his latest project Kieran is the author of a beautiful little hand-drawn book, DOT. DOT was produced over lockdown and released this September. It offers a practical way to comfort and calm anyone anxious, stressed or overwhelmed and we thought Kieran was the perfect person to interview this Mental Health Awareness Week. 

How did your publication DOT come about?

One of my close friend's daughter, Elodie, stayed at our place over Christmas 2019 and had an anxiety attack in the middle of the night. That shocked me. It was a wake up call. How are young children and teens expected to cope with the barrage of anxiety inducing things that are thrown at them every day, from climate change to body image - plus all the stuff of everyday life.

I tried to make her something that would distract her - something simple and light hearted - something she could hold and put under pillow. Something that wasn't a smartphone. I got up early one morning and wrote a rough version in one sitting - it was then imagined, edited and transformed first of all by my partner Tam West - who edited the first draft. (I'm dyslexic so it was full of mistakes). Then we showed it to Claire Murdoch at Penguin - then the team at Penguin knocked it into shape and sent it to print over the first Covid-19 lockdown. Everything was done over Zoom.

DOT is a very visual and tactile book - hard cover with texture and different colours - were these design elements incorporated to also help alleviate anxiety?

My partner Tam West was instrumental in putting the look of the book together. It was hard to choose a colour for the cover as the original hand drawn version I made for Elodie was white. Tam decided that a rainbow of very warm cheery colours would be the best idea - giving each book it's own personality and giving the buyer a chance to respond and pick a colour that suits them personally. We knew one of the books had to be orange, Elodies favorite colour at the time. The texture, weight and tone of the paper stock and the different colours are all designed to enhance the book as an object as well as a tool - something that they can put by the bed, under the pillow or on a desk. It's a reminder to breath deeply and relax as much as it is a tool.

Real, hand-held, physical books - do you think real tactile books themselves in some way help alleviate stress and anxiety? 

Totally. If you have books in your life you'll know how important they are. The way they fill an empty wall - sit on a table or sit in your hands. They are beautiful things - full of wonder. Picking up a book and just turning the pages is a kind of meditation. I'm a big fan of spending an evening with a pile of photography books and a glass of wine so yep, they relieve anxiety for sure!

What do you think about Awareness Weeks - is Mental Health Week helpful for addressing anxiety and other issues? 

I think it should be a month.

What are you reading at the moment?

A bunch of books on Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. It's all beautiful research for my own work.

Which literary character do you most identify with?

John Brady Cole - he's a naive dreamer who can't believe it whenever something goes wrong...

Hardback or paperback?

Hardback. Always.

Favourite coffee?

Instant. Black.