I should start by saying I hate having my picture taken. Not dislike. Hate. Loathe. Despise. I blame that on the development of Kodak’s Brownie camera. Simple camera—in theory. Basically, it was a brown, box shaped camera with a lens, a viewfinder, and film. It was so simple anyone could use it, and did. So if it wasn’t my mother lining us grubby faced kids in a row somewhere and telling us, “Say cheese,” it was someone else’s Mom. And we’d smile…and smile…and smile while she moved us “a little to the left,” or “just a bit to the right,” or “a couple of steps closer,” until by the time the picture was taken those smiles looked nothing like smiles. In fact generally we’d look like a row of miniature Cesar Romero’s doing the Joker on the Batman TV series. (Yes, I know Jack Nicholson also played the Joker, but I grew up in the 60’s.) Overall, I’m just a little paranoid about having my picture taken.
But it was time for a new author photo, so I decided that not only was I going to have a new photo, I was going to have a “famous author” photo, the kind of picture that would make me look like I was a cosmopolitan world traveler instead of someone who read Cosmo in the check-out line at Wal-mart. I was going to have an author photo like Tess Gerritsen.
Okay, so Tess is of Chinese ancestry and I’m not, but my daughter is. And Tess is American and I’m Canadian, but she lives in
My friend, Kevin, who is a photographer, agrees to take the pictures. I considered letting Mr. Wonderful take them, but when he takes pictures the subjects always look like they were standing in
Tess, I discover, has two author photos on her website and she looks elegant and worldly in both of them. My favorite is on her blog. She’s in a white shirt, smiling with her arms crossed over her chest. I can do that.
Problem # 1: I can’t get my hair to hang like hers does. I don’t have that much hair. I briefly fantasize about extensions. Since I live down the road from the middle of nowhere, the only supplementary hair I can find is at the dollar store. It’s very black and very curly, and when I hold it up to my head I flash back to the summer when I was eight and my mother decided to give my stick straight hair just a “slight wave” with the help of a Toni home perm kit. I spent the summer looking like Michael Jackson’s illegitimate white-bread sister. Stick me in a pair of bell bottoms and a paisley shirt and I could have been grooving in between Tito and Jermaine.
Okay, so the hair is out. I can still do everything else. I have a white shirt, a designer shirt. Well, it’s designer in the sense that I bought it at the mall as opposed to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. I find the shirt at the back of the closet and put it on. And remember why I never wear the thing.
Problem # 2: The blouse zippers instead of closing with buttons, and that zipper bulges out in the front so I look as though I have a third boob right between the real girls and about twice their size.
No white shirt either. I go back to Tess’s website and study her picture again. The woman has no wrinkles, I notice. Would it be in bad taste to post a comment on her blog asking what kind of wrinkle cream she uses? I decide if I can’t copy her hair and her shirt I can copy her confident woman of the world pose. Anyway, if you squint a little, there’s really not that much difference between us.
In the meantime I stick some green painter’s tape across the wrinkles between my eyebrows in the hope that they somehow flatten out before Kevin arrives to start taking pictures. (Don’t bother trying it. It doesn’t work.)
Kevin arrives with some nifty gadgets in his camera bag including a filter he claims will make me look as though I’ve been lit like Barbara Streisand. He suggests I wear my pink shirt because the color will look good next to my face. Since the shirt makes me look skinny I agree.
I pose for shots inside. I pose for shots outside. I fold my arms, smile and think, “New York Times best-seller list.” Kevin takes the film to be developed.
Problem # 3: I look like an after model in an osteoporosis commercial. Or Quasimodo in the bell tower. If they were both lit like Barbara Streisand.
“I want to look like a famous author,” I wail to Mr. Wonderful.
“I think you look beautiful just the way you are,” he says, kissing the top of my head.
“Let’s go take some shots in the park,” Kevin suggests.
The sun comes out. Kevin poses me, arms propped on the low stone wall surrounding one of the artesian wells in the park. I smile and think, “Please don’t let my arms be in bird poop.”
The finished photos look very good—no elegant shirt or cosmopolitan pose. Just me, looking like me.
I go back to Tess Gerritsen’s blog for one more look at the famous author photo. I hold my picture next to the computer monitor and take a minute to read the blog. Tess went to