It’s just your face, yet when a camera’s pointed at it, suddenly there’s a lot to think about.
First of all, I’d like to thank David Edmonds, who has done such an amazing job with these.
I had been watching the total number of posts creep towards this important mark. It has repeatedly crossed my mind that I should do something special, but what that could have been, I had no idea. Luckily, coincidence decided it for me. It happened that I found out I was going to get published just in time to get an author photo shoot done and the final images back to me ready for this blog’s 100th post.
Thinking about your face
I am, by and large, accustomed to my face. Whenever I look, it’s still at the front of my head where I left it. We had a period during my teenage years where we didn’t really get on, but who doesn’t?
The thing is, while I don’t spend most of the time with the urge to hide my face away in a bag, getting your photograph taken does make you take a good long look at yourself. Knowing that you’ll get a likeness of yourself at 36 megapixels is enough to make anyone bite their lip and wonder whether people really need to know that you have a face.
It’s remarkable how intimidating a camera lens actually is. It’s more intense than a person’s stare, that big shiny black circle that glares at you across the room. You find yourself getting drawn into a game with it, trying not to blink before it does. There almost seems to be a challenge inside that lens; ‘Do you really want me to capture this forever?’ I think if I got two and put them side by side, that’d be as close to staring into the face of pure evil as it’s possible for a human to get, unless you’ve met [name of a celebrity you hate]. Yeah, we just did a joke. We’re a team now. High five.
‘Was that there before?’
It doesn’t matter how comfortable with your face you are, when you know people are going to be able to look at it in extreme detail, you do tend to review a few things. It’s worse than meeting someone in person, as we all maintain eye contact most of the time. There may be the occasional cursory sweep conducted, where you pick up on a few key details (wrinkled eyes/reddish cheeks/horns), but most of the time we look each other in the eye.
With a photo, well, you can study whatever you want to. You can get a ruler out and measure to make sure both my eyes are the same size, which they probably aren’t. You could deconstruct my entire countenance, read a thousand meanings into the shape of my mouth, the line of my jaw, the angle of my brow. You probably won’t, because there’s not much fun to be had in it, and I’m too young to be any of the dead celebrities, who are rumoured to still be alive, with a new face, so there’s no great mystery to uncover.
Achieving just the right level of narcissism
There’s a slight paradox when it comes to portraits like this, which is that people want you to look nice, but don’t want you to be visibly making an effort to look nice. You have to pose for a photo; that’s how photos are taken. Every arrangement of limbs and facial features is a pose. If you wanted a pose free person, you’d have to blend them first.
So the eternal problem of the photo shoot is that my main objective is to look good. That’s why there aren’t any photos of me facing the wrong way, tripping over a stick, or with soup all over my face. But at the same time, I don’t want to be trying too hard. Only celebrities (i.e. people whom we want to look as nice as possible) are allowed to be obviously trying hard to look their best. Not that I’d want to have been lying on the bonnet (hood, for my American friends) of a Ferrari, but still, if I’m trying too hard, people will say, ‘Look at him, posing like he’s a celebrity. What an arse.’
Pretty much the same as writing really
I have to send my face out into the world. Obviously, it’s been out before, and my Facebook page and the like already have plenty of pictures on them. But these are different. These are meant to say, ‘Well, this is me’. They are meant to help people make an opinion. I can’t control what that opinion is.
Which makes it much the same as writing. I know what I want people to think when they read my writing, but I can’t ensure that they do. Everyone’s free to make their own minds up.
Why can’t there be a thing that allows people to see what they want, not what’s actually there?
Oh wait, there is. It’s called beer.
There are some more photos from this shoot on my Author Facebook Page. Click on the link to go there and check them out. While you’re there, why not like my page?
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The content of this post is copyright © Rewan Tremethick 2013.