The composition of the author photo is purposely contrived to convey the appropriate authorly attributes specific to his or her genre. It is no accident that Margaret Atwood, queen of Canadian fiction, is photographed with a small, monarchical smile and not Robert Munch’s exclamatory, eye-popping enthusiasm and Where’s Waldo fashion sense. The photo is a kind of visual resumé — it is offered as a testimony to the nature and quality of the book’s contents. The author’s image does not only complement the book, it is the visual encapsulation of the book itself.
from Deconstructing the Author Photo by Lorie Boucher
Now here's a group of authors who know how to pose for a photo shoot.
House of Anansi
Ms. Boucher goes on to say:
Visual stimuli are a daily assault on our senses and on our intellects. Correlations between dissimilar things are made for us to consume daily, unquestioningly. But there is no relationship between a photo of an author and the text he or she creates. It is a marketing ploy that plays on our basic instinct to assign value to what we see, rather than to expend energy analyzing what is being purposefully contrived for our consumption.
Nicholas Blincoe of the Telegraph would argue that he feels lost when he doesn't find an author's picture inside the back flap of the book jacket.
Perhaps I'm alone, but I need a face to project my warm feelings on to; even if the face resembles a lump of squashed Plasticine, matted with dog hair. But, then, I am a huge fan of Anthony Burgess.
Jim Cox, in his article Author Photo Advice claims that author photos make good business sense for both publisher and author, and that human beings are "conditioned to notice what our fellow homo sapiens look like". Here's what he had to say about his experience with a photo shoot.
As those who have seen me can attest, I'm overweight, wear a beard to cover up a multitude of chins, and have never won a beauty contest in my life. But I took my non-photogenic self to a portrait photographer, and after an hour's session, the guy came away with a picture of me that makes me look like I was a Fortune 500 magnate and a Hollywood star rolled into one.
I think I will be buried with that framed photo clasped firmly in my moribund hands.
The funniest account of an author shoot I have read was in Neil Gaiman's journal for American Gods.
As the shoot wound down, Jeff and I got to chat a little. "How would you like me to make you look?" he asked. "Brooding, mysterious, scary, friendly -- what kind of impression are you trying to give?"
I thought for a moment, and realised that I had no idea. "Could you make me look surprisingly f*able (the spelling has been bleeped as to not to offend those who will probably be offended anyway) for a writer, please?"
He laughed (and so did the rest of the crew) and said he'd do his best.
And we wrapped up the shoot, then I ate and drove another three hours back.
Actually, I'd settle for brooding.
Really, I'd settle for not very goofy.
I think I need an image consultant...or maybe I'll just read Kathleen O'Reilly's latest,
The Diva's Guide To Selling Her Soul instead.
What would you sacrifice to be a size zero? For more than a few women, the promise of thin thighs in 30 seconds might just convince them to deal with the devil. Award-winning author Kathleen O'Reilly's The DIVA'S GUIDE TO SELLING HER SOUL (Apr., Downtown Press) is a story for every woman who knows that getting celebrity-style skinny involves a pact with Lucifer‹or in this case, the silver-tongued Lucy. She's the trashiest gossip columnist in the city and she's working a pyramid scheme that's truly evil. The more clients our "innocent" heroine V recruits for her "Life Enrichment Program," the more of V's decadent desires will come true. Unfortunately, V soon discovers there maybe something worth saving in her after all, which means when she made the deal with the devil she may have truly damned herself - unless she can figure a way out.
(However she gets out of it, I hope it involves chocolate. ;-)