Sunday, September 18, 2011
Also, those look suspiciously not like books on the shelf behind him, which makes you wonder what he's staring at.
It's possible to pull off the reflective author with pipe thing, of course. This guy did it pretty well -- in fact
Then there's the glossy head-shot, with all it evokes about success, but not to the point of implying inaccessibility. Everyone is attracted to good-looking people, right? So long as they don't appear to be overly aware of their good looks. This one works, I think, though it may simply be because she's so pretty.
But I keep coming back to... the hand, used as a prop, literally. Lots and lots of those.
For my first author photo I used a picture taken by my friend Nancy Goldman on the occasion of my 40th birthday trip to Italy. It was a truly candid shot, taken by someone I liked, at a happy time. That’s why it worked so well, right up to the point that at a signing for my book Mississippi in Africa, in 2003, someone asked, in passing, “When was this picture of you taken?” The only possible subtext of the question was that it did
This is how you get those occasional obituaries in the newspaper where someone who died at age 92 looks, in the photo, as if he wasn’t a day past 40. He just didn't like most of the pictures taken during the last 52 years of his life.
Thus chastened, I arranged to reshoot the Mississippi in Africa author photo for the first paperback edition, using something more “up-to-date.” James Patterson, a very skilled photographer in Jackson, took a series of photos that he and his then-assistant pronounced really wonderful, but in which, I couldn’t help but observe, I looked considerably older than the 27-year-old I still saw myself as.
For the upcoming book, We're With Nobody, I needed to look the opposite of morose, because the book is both serious and funny – quirky, even. But in this effort I was thwarted by the photo-shoot dynamic, in which I appear to be very studiously considering what I look like, to the detriment of how I look.
So I went back to James, who had taken a series of photos at my house for a magazine article, and offered to let me use any of them for my author photo, gratis. For the purposes of the upcoming book, I’d have actually rather gone with something less mainstream, such as the next one you see, below. But at a certain point trying to look “different” speaks to a familiar paradigm – look how little I seem to care about the paradigm of author publicity photos, even as I artificially showcase my face for an author publicity photo. Also, I think this photo is about eight years old now, too. And one of my eyes is open a little wider than the other.
It could be worse, I guess. You could always come off looking strange, like these people who turned up during a Google search of "author photos:"
Or just, not someone whose book you'd want to read.
But there's always the possibility that you'll look cool, middle aged and appropriate to the subject matter, such as my friend Sebastian, who's got a lot to work with.
In the end, I’m thinking of going with this one, taken by James, but I go back and forth. I'm still not looking at the camera, but at least I'm not morose, or weird, and I'm not propping my head up with my hand. Plus, 10 years from now, it’ll look young to me.
Like I said, it's all about purposeful vanity. I've posted a note about the process of selecting a photo of myself, as if you should care, and used it as an excuse to highlight various photos of myself, in none of which does my bald spot show. That is one more reason why this is such a distasteful task. I need you to like my photo.
This is Michael, by the way, having his author photo shot by Christina Cannon:
All of us, when we see ourselves in a photo with a group of people, our eyes invariably land on our own image first. We care how the world sees us, and I can assure you that it's even worse when you need to personify a product that you very much want the world to buy.