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Photojournalist Tor Eigeland describes his new book, Stuff Happens, studying his career and experiences working for National Geographic and other publications, on The Table Read, “The Best entertainment magazine in The UK“.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed Tor Eigeland about his career in photojournalism, and what inspired him to collate his experiences and pictures into a book, Stuff Happens.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I have been a freelance photojournalist (a photographer who takes a series of photos to tell a story) for over 60 years and have travelled the world for many well known media including National Geographic, Time and Fortune. 

Tor Eigeland, Photojournalist Stuff Happens, author interview The Table Read
Tor Eigeland

I am both a photographer and a writer although, now into my 90s, I am no longer professionally active.  I grew up in Norway but have lived in many countries and travelled to many more on assignment.  My wife and I now live here in the UK, in Dorset.

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When did you first WANT to write a book?

I’ve been mulling over writing this book for about 10 years.  It’s a culmination of my life’s work and travels.

When did you take a step to start writing?

I started writing in my late teens as a student abroad, recounting my travels and exploits.  I managed to sell my articles for pocket money.  Once I started in my career, I have frequently written texts to accompany my photos up till just a few years ago. 

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

My first book in my own name, as opposed to contributing to others, was When All the Lands were Sea, about the life of the Marsh Arabs of Iraq who I was privileged to spend time with in 1967 prior to their destruction.  That book was more photos than text and has not appeared as an eBook.  It took about 18 months to put together, back in 2014.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

Stuff Happens took about ten years in total.  The first few chapters were written a while back but then I was too busy and life got in the way so I wrote the vast majority in the last three or four years.  Covid probably helped in that I had more time to dedicate to it. 

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Stuff Happens?

Friends and family have always been interested to hear about my assignments as no two were ever the same.  Putting these stories into a book, brought to life with my photos, seemed a natural progression once.  I am not very good at doing nothing!  It’s also a kind of legacy project as I write about worlds which no longer exist.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Stuff Happens?

I find writing comes quite naturally.  Addictive even.  Remembering back to events and situations long ago is a challenge but once I quietly sat at my computer and took myself back into the situation, I was surprised how many details came back to me.  Even names of people I had thought I had long since forgotten. 

What was your research process for Stuff Happens?

As the book is about my own life, I didn’t need research as such, but the internet was useful to remind me of details, especially of historic events I witnessed, to be sure I had dates and spellings of names correct.  

Apart from that, I have kept many of my major articles so I dug them out to refresh my memory.  I still have comprehensive photo files so one look at my photos brought a lot back to mind too. 

Stuff Happens by Tor Eigeland

People think I made notes or had diaries to refer to, but I didn’t.  Somehow these major events in my life were important enough and memorable enough to stay with me. 

How did you plan the structure of Stuff Happens?

As Stuff Happens is a photo memoir, the chapters are written in chronological order, starting when I was 16 in 1947, right up until the present.  

Where I was living at the time helped me to put the chapters, each being a separate story, into some sort of order.  By the time you get to my age, remembering what happened and in what order isn’t always so easy.  A lot of assignments have been undertaken over 60 years!

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Stuff Happens need?

As a writer, my 100,000 word text was already in pretty good shape from the outset but yes, it needed a light edit to be sure it made sense to someone less close to it than me.  There are always going to be mistakes in that many words so it needs a fresh pair of eyes.  The actual content was changed very little.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Writing requires a lot of time, dedication and commitment.  Getting input to make sure it reads well to someone else is vital.  You need to be prepared to chop anything which isn’t relevant or which doesn’t add to the story. 

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

As Stuff Happens is about my life as a photojournalist – the culmination of my work and travels – I feel as if I have now told my story.

If I’m looking for a project, I may do a photo book of the images of which I am the most proud, or are the most significant, with a few lines of explanation to each one.

I should add that I am very pleased to see how well my photos have come out in an eBook.  Much better than expected.  As some photos are double page spreads, I learnt that the trick is to set your reader on double page view, so you can see both a left and right page as it would appear in a printed book.  It makes all the difference.  They can be expanded too, so I am very impressed at how it looks on a screen. 

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort? 

Yes, I am proud of my book.  Especially when I get comments from readers on how much they enjoy it.  I have been told it is a book to be savoured, and I can’t ask for more than that.  So, although it was a lot of effort, more than I expected at the outset, mostly due to it being very photo heavy, 270 of them plus all their captions, they were what made the difference to the book and I am very pleased with the result.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

Title:  Stuff Happens, the Far from Humdrum Life of a Photojournalist by Tor Eigeland

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/STUFF-HAPPENS-HUMDRUM-LIFE-PHOTOJOURNALIST/dp/1839524073/ref=sr_1_2?crid=16B91SG3HUSPQ&keywords=tor+eigeland&qid=1644494027&sprefix=tor+eigeland%2Caps%2C55&sr=8-2

My website :  www.toreigeland.com

Instagram : @toreigeland

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