Monday, June 30, 2014

The Author's Photo

Authors suffer from many forms of torture – rejection, writer’s block, RSI, isolation, big butts from sitting too long at our desks – but one of the most refined of these is posing for the Author’s Photo.  I hate having my photo taken at the best of times, but this is the ultimate horror.

Sometimes it’s needed by the photographer from the local paper.  If he likes to see himself as artistic, he won’t take the one of you standing in a straight row with the librarians or the booksellers, he’ll decide to be 'different' and go for the wildly original idea that you should hold a copy of your book.  Sometimes you just display it, cover outwards, in front of you; sometimes you're asked to open it and look as if you’re reading it, though why you would have decided to read your own book, with which you are all too familiar, at a public gathering is not entirely clear.

If it’s meant for a magazine, he'll be looking for a more ambitious shot.  This is likely to take at least twenty minutes, while you are posed in different situations – in front of  bookshelves, in a picturesque corner if one offers itself, sitting at a desk pretending to write as if you’d decided to get on with your next offering right there and then.  Meanwhile your nice spontaneous smile starts to look more and more like a death’s-head rictus as he goes for more and more extreme shots – full-on first, then to one side, then the other, above, below –

Ah, below.  That is the point at which, having learned from painful experience, I leap up, shriek, ‘NO!’ and threaten to smash his camera.  As a lady of – hmm – a certain age, I am all too aware that any view from below shows not a chin but a rippling series of chins.

Worst of all, the ultimate nightmare, is the posed photo that goes out on the cover, every reader’s introduction to you.  Should you smile hopefully or lean your chin on your hand and look dark and moody as befits a crime writer?

It’s always such an ordeal that  I used my previous photo until I turned up at a library and was greeted with the brutal comment, ‘You don’t look anything like your photo.’

That one had been taken by a delightful Frenchman, who took a whole series for me to choose from.  At one point I said I hoped he would be air-brushing the wrinkles, to which he replied, with automatic French gallantry, ‘What wrinkles?’  The photo I wanted to use was the one he took as I gave him a ‘pull-the-other-leg-buster’ look but my editor vetoed it.

Despite the charm, it was still an ordeal.  So this time I opted for a point-and-press snap taken in the garden by my husband. It saved a lot of aching smile muscles – and he did it for free!  And that's it.  The next time someone tells me I don't look like it I shall just say firmly, 'I used to,' and leave it at that.


Rick Blechta said...

So, come on now, don't be shy: Where's the photo?


Vicki Delany said...

I just had a whole author photo shoot yesterday. Fortunately, I had a skilled friend visiting and we just did some shots around the house. They turned out really well. Stay tuned, these pics are for Eva Gates, who you will be hearing much more about later.

Donis Casey said...

Note that for the last few years, my author photos are taken from above.

Eileen Goudge said...

After years of smiling stiffly for shot after shot, I now have my husband take my author photos. Besides being a really good amateur photographer,he knows how to make me laugh, so I'm always smiling (naturally)in my photos. PhotoShop is my "beauty tip" for those wrinkles:)

Aline Templeton said...

I'm glad to find that I'm not the only one with problems. And no, Rick, the photo isn't going to appear. Nor is the one taken recently at a convention dinner when I was seated beside a particularly pompous judge, looking thin-lipped and bored rigid!

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