Here I blog about writing, editing, reading, books, submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching writing, and living the writer's life. Welcome. BUT -- if you are a writer: Write first, read blogs second.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Writers, Photos, Fear, and Me: Getting Back in the Picture

Perhaps you already know that about 7 weeks ago, after avoiding it for seven years, I finally had a new photo taken for professional use (there it is, at left!). I told the story about how I got over my photo fear in my Thanksgiving newsletter, and mentioned it on Facebook

What happened next surprised, intrigued, and in some ways saddened me: within hours, more than 50 individual emails, and dozens of Facebook comments from other (mostly female) writers, all described feeling the same dread of posing for a new photo. Clearly, we all needed a reality check.

Then in December, SheWrites, the wonderful web community, invited me to share the story, which includes this excerpt: 
...Recently, when asked for photos to accompany essays from my memoir manuscript, about the relationship I formed with my father after he died, I persuaded each editor that something else would be more interesting--me and Dad on my wedding day; him holding me as a toddler; an image of Las Vegas (where he'd retired).   
But I was delaying the inevitable. A month ago, an editor of a print magazine insisted. She suggested I stand in front of a leafy tree and snap a selfie, and while that appealed to my budget (one son in college, another heading that way), I knew I needed help to get camera-ready, a village, and that costs. Photography sitting fee. Make-up artist. A decent  haircut, coloring, style. Then, paying for the actual images.  
Then there were the emotional costs: Age, more weight gain, a neglected appearance, and a bitterness that a writer's physical appearance mattered. That my story might be judged, maybe before the words are even read, based on the size of my chins, my age, the fleshy contour of my cheeks, the width of my nose, the wrinkles around and the bags under my eyes. What did any of that have to do with the words, story, with writing?   
But pictures do tell stories. And the one I joked I'd use until I was 90, suddenly struck me as telling the wrong story. That woman no longer exists, in ways that please and pain me... 
You can read the full post over at SheWrites. I'd love it if you would chime in, either here in comments, or over there, with your own thoughts on the subject. Are you getting in the picture?


Andrea said...

This is a great story--and a great photo (and great hair!)! Yes, I'm always the one behind the camera... our family album looks like a single dad with three kids and the occasional pair of women's shoes shot from waist height. I'm always horrified by how I look in photos...but you're right. It's who I am and time to get one taken!

brenda said...

I remember reading your story. Glad you did.. wonderful picture. I too wonder what the picture has to do with the story, but it matters. I was recently told I had to add my photo to my blog... really!? Oh well, here we go...

Lisa Reiter said...

What a great piece Lisa - I struggle with some of these issues of leaving my old self behind, particularly having 'lost' a prime decade to cancer. That youth cannot ever be relived and I am still putting off updating my LinkedIn picture - I won't be happy one way or the other !

kario said...

I love the introspection! I am always shocked at how photogenic my kids are and how bad I think I look in photographs, but after reading this it strikes me that I have a much different mental picture of myself than shows up in print. It is much like my recorded voice - it always shocks me to hear how nasal I sound in a recording and I know lots of other people who feel the same way. It is tempting to post photos (especially promotional ones) of other things, given that we think we'll be judged for the image instead of the content of our writing, but you have more than proven yourself as an amazing writer and teacher and the more comfortable we can be with our own images, the more that shines through in the photo. Your eyes in this shot tell a story.