Friday, October 10, 2008

The Many Faces of Headshots, or What Am I Trying to Convey?

I decided I needed a new head shot because the one posted on this blog of me standing in the kitchen holding up a copy of Traveling Blind (the first book out of the box to be exact, which explains my goofy grin) wasn't conveying the right image of me as publisher. But what is the "right" image? And under what criteria am I basing the concept of right on?

Who knew creating a new head shot was going to be such a stressful, anxiety inducing task?

Last year when I launched Traveling Blind, Rick took a photo of me standing next to the framed, poster-sized Medusa's Muse logo that hangs in our hallway. That's where the picture of me on the Medusa's Muse Press website came from. You can see the tension in my jaw and the frightened "is it over yet?" look in my eyes, as if I'm suffering from severe constipation.

My own book is launching next month, so I needed a new head shot that was professional looking without being uptight or goofy. Rick agreed to take the photo, but he wanted some ideas on how it should look. What did I want my picture to say about me? I was stumped, I mean, how does any writer decide that question?

I cruised the Internet and studied the backs of books to discover all the different ways writers convey who they are and what they write about. There are the "I am a very serious writer" photos in which the author looks directly into the camera with an almost stern look on her face. Occasionally those serious writers gaze away from the photographer, but they NEVER smile. The images say, "I take my writing seriously and so should you." Hmmm... so if my jaw is clenched in my photo does it say, "I'm so serious about my writing I don't even breath?"

Some authors like to smile with big, toothy grins, as if saying, "Writing is fun!" Others prefer to press their lips together and curve them upwards into an almost mysterious smile, as if saying "I love my writing, but I'm still very serious, so don't think this is easy."

I found several photos of authors laughing, their mouths opened wide in glee, tongues showing behind their exposed teeth. Was that planned? Did the photographer command them to laugh, or did someone tell a joke and the photographer just happened to snap the photo at the exact moment the author looked lovely while laughing, but not a second later when the author spit all over the camera?

Besides the simple question of whether or not to smile, I wondered if I should sit or stand? If I sat, should I lean forward with hands clasped, or stand with my arms folded? What would that say about me? Plus, there is the question of props. A few authors like to wear hats. The photo of me on the Rocket Girl site was taken at the Gatsby Picnic three years ago. I'm wearing a 1920's Deco costume complete with cloche hat, smiling so big all my teeth are showing. I like that photo, but I don't know what it says about me or my writing other than I love to dress up in costume and go to reenactments.

Rick and I decided to try taking some in the moment photos of me at a cafe with my journal because that would show who I am: a writer, plain and simple. Nothing posed or pretentious. He'd start snapping away while I doodled in my journal and we'd see what we got. What we got was more pictures of me with that frightened, frozen, wide eyes look again, except this time I wasn't looking at the camera. The only one I liked was the picture he took of me when I tossed my journal aside and started reading the funnies. I was laughing and relaxed. However, it didn't convey the WRITER me.

The following weekend, we started working on images for the cover of the book. He shot about a hundred images of me pretending to be looking up at the title while working on my manuscript, and we managed to narrow those down to five that I thought would work. In all those photos, there was one close-up of me that didn't work well for the cover of the book, but just might work as a head shot.

So, here it is.

It might not be the best author head shot of all time, but at least my jaw is relaxed, my eyes are calm, and my expression conveys, "I'm having a great time publishing books."

I think... or maybe I should just stick with the picture of me reading the funnies.

Has any writer been happy with their head shot? I asked around and only about two writers out of thirty have said yes. The rest tell me all the reasons why they HATE their photo, and it usually has to do with their hair, or that their eyes are too crinkled, rather than that the message was wrong.

I am obviously over thinking and obsessing on this head shot issue, which is pretty typical for me. Name any topic on writing or publishing and I'll find a thousand bits of minutiae to ponder. I'll come up with ideas you've never considered, and no one ever should.

That being said, I quit this ridiculous head shot quandary and will stick with the one I've chosen. For now. Until I decide it's too serious... or too silly. Or my hair is wrong. Or... oh bollocks!

1 comment:

Mother of Chaos said...

You look gorgeous. I think it's a great picture of you!