The Story Behind...with Susi Boyle

23rd June 2020

We always delight in learning the incredible stories behind the books our customers make- the how and the why. In this new series, we meet customers with a story to tell. We spoke with long-term Bob Books customer and photographer Susi Boyle about her favourite photographic destinations around the globe, making her daughter's wedding book and why it's the small details of a photo that make you feel the most. 

How did you get into photography and how would you describe your style?

Through travel mainly. Back in the 1970”s was a great time to travel, I was very young but got the opportunity to spend several months travelling around Morocco. Unbelievably I didn’t have a camera. Never to be repeated.

It kind of spiralled from there with a trip to Iran, this time equipped with an Instamatic camera. I was a driver in convoy of 10 BMW’s, driving them from the factory in Munich to Tehran via what was then Yugosalvia, Bulgaria and across all of Turkey and then onto Tehran.  A popular job at the time, and a cheap way to get to India. I didn’t continue to India then, that came many years later but when I did I fell in love and have travelled to India as often as possible. Instead not long after Iran I went to South East Asia with my now husband.  This time with an Olympus Trip camera.

I’ve always loved researching and recording stuff so eventually all these photos went into albums, which I’ve been doing ever since with Bob Books. My style is definitely travel and I love taking any type of portraits.

Where are the most interesting places you’ve visited/shot?

The following countries are all right up there, each rich in culture, history, architecture, landscape and coastlines.  A photographer or in my case, a happy snappers dream.

Morocco: Luckily I’ve been back many time since that first trip without a camera. Morocco is so accessible in terms of getting to from the UK and then once you're there you can drive the width of the country in just over a day if you wanted, but who would.  The coast to the desert, taking in a few mountains, date palmeraies (groves) and stunning valleys along the way.  Or top to bottom in a few more days. The landscape is diverse, the desert magical.

Guatemala:  Another incredibly photographic country with a different history and vibe. Spanish architecture, volcanos, Mayan ruins, pyramids and temples. Mayan Indians wearing traditional dress, brightly coloured woven cloth beautifully embroidered.

Lake Atitlan in the Highlands is surrounded by more volcanos and makes awesome sunset shots. Visit small Mayan villages on the lake side where the locals have a story to tell and wear traditional dress unique to their village, so a different colour in each village.

This is the place where I really started to enjoy photography.

India: Ticks all the boxes. More like a continent than country, it assaults the senses and changes the way you see the world. Beautiful ancient architecture, palaces, forts, domed Muslim monuments, Hindu temples, every type of landscape and people, people, people.

So colourful with brightly Sari’d women, garlands of flowers draped everywhere, children, cows, camels and  traffic and noise on the streets.
You are never short of someone to talk to- Indian people love to chat and have their photos taken. They like to take yours even more!
Indonesia: Travelling through the Indonesian Archipelago from Sumatra to Bali in the late 1970’s was awesome. Travelling overland and by boat back in the day before there were mobiles or booking sites added a certain type of excitement.

My overriding memories of this trip was staying at Samosir Island on Lake Toba (Sumatra) with some local people. One woke up to the equator type mist you get in the morning with the Christian Church over the water singing All Things Bright and Beautiful, just wonderful.

We stopped off in Yogyakarta for a while and I went to school in the morning to learn Batik painting.  We went to listen to Gamelan music, watch Javanese shadow puppets and Javanese dancers.  Of course we went to the the breath taking Borobudur Buddhist Temple. 

A few years ago we went to Lombok.  A great place to take steamy shots of buffalos being herded home at sunset across glorious beaches. The sun rising through mist and over palm trees of the traditional Sasak houses that are built on hills.  The village houses rise in tiers up to the crown of the hill with zig-zagging paths to access the houses is a great vision. Good to be an early riser!

When did you start creating photo books with Bob Books?

In 2009 for my daughter's wedding.  Every table had a throwaway camera.  I asked some people to send me the files.  I ended up creating a book of my own photos, the professional photographer's photos and the random guest files.  As it happens I gave her a large coffee table size book which was lucky as they never got around to ordering any of the professional photos.

Way back in the beginning I used to scan film shots and made a “before digital” Bob Book. That was fun.

What do you find the challenging, and what is the most enjoyable about the experience of making a photo book?

I take far too many photographs so sorting the ones to use is a challenge  I find it easier to drop the photos I choose onto my desktop, plan my double page spread and drop the photo onto the page, and arrange them into my story.

The most enjoyable part is telling our story and getting the feel of the country or place across the page.  I  love using parts of photos of things like tiles, pottery, fabric or something specific to the country and using this as a page border or divider. Colour matching the borders to the photo colours is a great way of squeezing in bits of photos that you don’t have room for. 

I sometimes use something like a Tagine pot and duplicate it across the top or bottom of the page to add to the story- this worked wonderfully when I made a cook book from my travels.

Your books are amazing, do you use them to show friends and family or more of a personal records?

More of a personal record these days as friends and family have seen enough on my Instagram @susi_anappetitefortravel . My friends wanted copies of my cookbook ‘An Appetite for Travel’ which I made for my children- they kept asking me for my recipes! Making a personal book for them of the recipes they had eaten for years was a lot fun.

Friends who travel love the travel books, especially if they are planning on going to that place and sometimes borrow one to look over at home!

Are you working on any photo books now?

Yes, two books. I’ve had such a busy year I haven’t had time until now to make a photo book of Zanzibar where we stayed for a month back at the start of 2019.  Also Kerala where we were at the end of last year. Two very different but stunning places, both can be described by their colour alone, Zanzibar is very blue and Kerala very green!  It’s lucky one can add loads of pages to the book, I like to fit it all.

I’m so enjoying creating these books with the Bob Books software, I just love putting it all together and telling the story!

Inspired by Susi's story? Make your own book now and tell your story.