I am an author. I represent myself through words, through stories. I am not a model. I am not an actress. When you turn a camera on me, I’m most likely to make a funny face, or at the very least, smile. In fact, I can probably count my posed, serious photos on one hand.
And yet, as an author I have written a serious novel on a somber topic, and when my publisher asked for a picture to represent me, and my novel, I needed to take a serious photo. The hair was flat ironed, the make-up was applied, the dress was put on. I did it all myself, and second guessed it the whole way.
A candid picture captures a moment, but a portrait is set up to make a moment. We all try to look our best in a portrait.
And what if our best isn’t good enough?
Isn’t pretty enough?
Isn’t skinny enough?
I found myself on a trail I liked to hike, feeling like an asshole because I was wearing a dress and heels instead of my familiar Nikes and running shorts and tank top, pressured to take a photo that I know will represent me in a way I’ve never been before: as a published author. It all seemed so far out of my comfort zone – except behind the lens was my friend Bobby, and next to him was my husband and we were chatting like we would any afternoon.
It morphed from a photo shoot into a hang out, and I paused often from the smiling and laughing and swatting at the thousands of gnats on the trail that had taken to surrounding the three of us. I paused to think about my book, to think about Clare and Luke as Bobby snapped pictures.
As expected, Bobby’s work was beautiful and we had several shots to choose from. He did what he does best – tell a story. A little about me, a little about my book. The mood is right, a mix of hope and sorrow, captured in lighting, focus, and composition.
His work is perfect, but I’ve been raised to pick apart my flaws. Always seeing the beauty in others, struggling to see in myself that perfection is in the imperfection.
The photos sat on my desktop for months, shared only with my publicist for the Atheneum catalog, while a pancake I decorated with whipped cream, chocolate chips and marshmallows continued to be my visual representation on twitter.
And they sat, and I waited. For the right moment, I guess, the moment when I was ready. Being ready might mean that the book is coming out soon and I don’t have an option. Being ready might mean that I’m tired of having a pancake represent my face. Being ready might mean that I need to stop worrying about being judged, because the scrutiny my picture gets will not matter to me as much as the scrutiny my book will get. It’s a good warm up. So here they are.