Back when my first mystery was about to come out, a lot of people heard the story of the head shot that not only appeared on the book jacket, but became my “brand” image: on my website, all my bookmarks, eventually my Blogger profile, my Facebook page, and everywhere else a photo was needed to depict Elizabeth Zelvin, author.
Since then, my life in the mystery world has generated a lot of candid shots at conventions and book launches, not all of them looking so terrible. Photography technology has progressed to the point where I was able to take my own passport photo recently, holding my little digital camera away from my face to snap it. Now, that was a terrible picture. But no one expects better on a passport, and as long as I don’t leave the country, no one will see it.
I’ve been working for the past year or so on a recording of original songs I’ve been writing and performing for the past fifty years, and the time has come to think about packaging a CD for Liz Zelvin, Outrageous Older Woman. I know this Liz is different from Elizabeth Zelvin, author.
Nancy lives and works in a wonderful old apartment near Central Park with two parrots (the elder, age 37, is a music lover whose repertoire includes both “Cancan” and “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring”) and a cat whose dander had me croaking when I tried to sing during my first visit to give her an idea of what would lie behind the album cover.
Makeup has never been my friend. I could probably use that passport and take a trip around the world with the money I’ve saved over a lifetime (not to mention the time) not using cosmetics. My line has always been, “My father never used makeup, and he had skin like a baby till the day he died at 91.” But for this photo shoot, it was not optional.
“I’ll tell you exactly what to buy,” she said. “You know what foundation is, right? Concealer?” Not really. I’ve walked right past all that stuff in CVS thousands of times. I finally convinced her that we’d be better off if she made me up in situ. (And I wasn’t kidding when I said I needed Cosmetics for Dummies. I volunteered to buy a couple of lipsticks and came back with lip gloss instead.) “But I don’t do eyelashes,” she said. “You need them, the more over-the-top the better, and you’ll have to put them on yourself.”
“You don’t understand,” I whined. My last encounter with false eyelashes was in 2002, when for my son’s wedding I tried valiantly to create a dramatic look that would come across well in the photos and ended up throwing the damn lashes across the room. But I did want to cooperate, really. And my own eyelashes could not possibly be called outrageous.
The result—well, Nancy took one look at me and started laughing. In the end, she pasted the second pair (forget about “self-adhesive” and “reusable”) on my lids in the right place. She stroked and patted makeup of various kinds all over my face. Like any other artist, she kept stepping back to see her work and muttering, “Damn, I’m good!” In the end, I looked fabulous. If I had a handmaiden to put my face on, I could look glamorous every day. Since I don’t, I’m thrilled to have these fantastic photos.