PERCHED on a mahogany throne, flanked by a ceremonial mace and sword against a majestic Capital backdrop, one of Edinburgh’s few female figureheads exudes an almost regal air of extravagance.
But this elegant portrait of ex-Lord Provost Lesley Hinds marks a major break with centuries of tradition – after she plumped for a fancy photograph over an oil painting to mark her term in office.
The thrifty City Chambers veteran – who occupied the key ceremonial position from 2003 to 2007 – said the camera based option “made more sense financially” than a commissioned painting.
The portrait, snapped last September, took less than an hour to set up and capture.
In March 2011, the News revealed how £30,000 of taxpayers’ money was to be squandered on two portraits of outgoing provosts, sparking a public outcry.
Cllr Hinds was set to be immortalised in a stained glass window before airing concerns about the price of the work.
She later elected for this photoshoot, created by Tricia Malley and Ross Gillespie of Broad Daylight studios, which cost less than £1000 to the public purse.
She said: “It was a great privilege to represent the city for four years and I am very proud of my term as Edinburgh’s Lord Provost – something I hope is represented in this portrait.”
The practice of commissioning formal portraits of the Lord Provost dates back 200 years. City Chambers is a museum to dozens of busts and paintings stretching into the 17th century.
Cllr Hinds, however, is one of only a handful of subjects to include her hubby Martin in her official portrait describing him as her “rock”.
She said: “I wanted something contemporary and unusual but that also paid tribute to the ancient traditions of our great capital. I also wanted to support a local company and, having seen Tricia and Ross’ work, was quite sure they would do it justice. Choosing a photographic portrait made more sense financially, costing a fraction of the price of a commissioned painting.” Around £40,000 is understood to be ring fenced in a Lord Provost account that, under the low-cost digital revolution, would subsidise two centuries of formal digital camera photoshoots compared with just eight years of oil portraits.
Photographer Tricia said the Provost’s ornate wooden chair had to be transported to Inverleith Park – Cllr Hinds’ ward – from Council HQ and drew strange looks from passers-by.
She also said rain clouds provided a moody skyline with Edinburgh Castle nestled in the top left corner. “Lesley is quite a feminine person, and quite stylish, so when she said to me ‘I’ve got these lovely red shoes’ I told her to wear them. I suppose from the sitter’s point of view the process is a lot quicker because it can take months to do an oil painting.”
The book resting next to her left elbow is a nod to Edinburgh’s City of Literature status, which was achieved during her reign.
‘A very clever work of art’
Arts impresario Richard Demarco said the portrait was a “work of art” that represented “good value for money”.
He praised the photographer’s ability to capture the essence of the former Lord Provost and character of Edinburgh’s majestic skyline.
“I think it’s as good as an oil painting and of very good quality,” he said. “It doesn’t look like a photograph and is a very clever work of art.
“I like that her partner is beside her as he helped her during the period she was in office.In my estimation this a proper, intellectually credible interpretation of her roll. It’s a break with the past butit didn’t cost £15,000 to £30,000 so that contributes to the amount of money being spent on other things – like the trams!”