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The making of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust 2018 calendar

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust staff member - and part-time photographer - Julia Nottingham gives an insight into how we put together of one of our most important retail products

Birthplace 2018 Calendar

The photographer 

Every year when I go on holiday I always make sure I buy a calendar as a souvenir. For me buying a calendar is one of the most important souvenir purchases. So of course, when I was asked to provide the majority of the photographs for the 2018 calendar for one of the UK’s top tourist attractions, the pressure was on... 

I work in the Trust’s retail department as the Retail Licensing and Digital Officer (I license out images in our collections, as well as manage the online shop and our brand new print on demand site). However my background is in photography, having studied BA Hons Press and Editorial Photography at Falmouth University.

We already had a selection of photographs taken by external photographers and we are grateful to Stewart Writtle, Andrew Lawson and John James for their contribution to this year's calendar. However, we wanted to complement this selection with new photography. 

Working in Stratford every day was beneficial for taking the new photos. It meant I could be flexible when I took the photographs, which was helpful as you can’t always trust the weather forecast. This allowed me to capture the properties at their finest, in perfect lighting conditions.

Inside photo birthplace 2018 calendar

Creating the perfect calendar

So how to create and put together the perfect calendar you might ask?  The key is to continuously photograph the houses and gardens at different times of the year, so you can see the properties through the different seasons.  It was also about learning how the light looks on the properties at different times of day, e.g. to photograph the Birthplace from Henley Street, the house is in shadow in the morning, so it is better to photograph it in the afternoon. We wanted to include an even spread of each of the five houses in the calendar, although we have made an extra allowance for Shakespeare’s New Place this year. The garden here is really starting to grow and transform since it opened last summer  and we wanted to make sure we did justice to this stunning setting.

We also wanted to give this year’s calendar a more contemporary and modern feel. Everyone has their own cameras and phones now where they can take their own photos, so my aim was to take images which visitors might have missed photographing. I approached the properties from different angles to try and show a different perspective. For example, I photographed the knot garden through a gap in the hedge, rather than the more conventional shot from the balcony looking down onto the garden. One of my main challenges was to capture these views without people in the frame. We made the decision not to include any people in this year's calendar and to focus just on the properties. With this in mind, I would often get to the locations early before crowds of visitors arrived. I had a few cases where I would get home and load up the photographs and zoom into a photo to see someone’s head poking out of a bush in the distance, so I had to stay focused on location and work quickly when the properties were quiet!

back cover birthplace calendar 2018

2019 is already on the horizon 

As I type, I have already been taking photographs ready for the 2019 calendar. It never feels like hard work -  Stratford and the Shakespeare houses are so beautiful, I will always be inspired to keep taking photographs.

I hope that the 2018 calendar will bring back happy memories for our visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon and that for anyone who receives it as a gift, it will be an incentive for them to come and see the houses for themselves.

You can buy the calendar online or in all of our Gift shops.