Some of us just love having our pictures taken, and with the easy facility to take ‘selfies’ with our mobiles it would seem a narcissism may have arisen, especially in those who want, or need, to promote themselves in some way. You could say it’s become a perfectly acceptable social convention. Now when I was in my early twenties in the 80s, I did a bit of selfie taking when it wasn’t the norm. I’d regularly sit in a Woolworths photo booth (remember those days?) and pose solo, just for me, to mark the changes, the different hairstyles, and basically to feel good about myself. I can look back now and see it as a distinct form of self absorption, but hey, I was an artist of the future, so maybe that was okay? Many years later I found out that an arty friend of mine, the same age as me, had also done this as a young woman – she’d composed a kind of film strip of them whilst I’d put mine in an album. Interestingly, and rather romantically, this lonely habit of mine ended after I met my future husband, but not before he joined me in the photo booth and posed with me, head to head, heart to heart. The lonely princess had finally met her prince, and we were able to ride off into the sunset together, where the selfie habit slowly faded as a new life began. Then the curtain closed forever on the photo booth.
Much later on, when aging began in earnest, the princess and the prince filled out a bit and time had wrought it’s changes. We stared at each other. What was happening? There were facial lines, the dreaded cellulite, indelible wrinkles and slacker skin…and so we became much fussier about what went into the album. We both began to dislike our picture being taken because what we saw on the outside didn’t reflect what we felt inside. But as we all know, the camera never lies. Now this is all very vain, I know, but we’re all human, right? And then what came into my life was the need for a portrait of the artist, and later on, also a portrait of the writer…and while my hubbie continued to dodge the scrutinising lens of the camera, I knew I had to face up to it.
Now I come to the point of this post – what happens when you become an artist or a writer, or indeed both? When you simply must have a decent ‘portrait of the artist’ for self promotion? It’s expected, it’s obligatory. And what kind of portrait should it be? Well, don’t stress, I have a few possibilities for you, by having spotted over time some distinct conventional differences in how artists choose to represent themselves and how writers do, and for a bit of fun and being very tongue in cheek here, I thought I’d share some approaches with you.
Portrait of the Artist
This can be anything! And it accompanies the required mission statement where they explain who they are, what they do and why (don’t get me started on this one!) Artists (meaning painters, sculptors etc) are meant to be original, quirky, not to be fitted into boxes, right? Yes, they are usually posing by their work in their studio or in a gallery, or they’re doing a painting, intent on their work, as the master painter touches the canvas with their brush…
Or they may pull back and smile at the camera, taking a break– I’ve done one or two of those, and it’s a pretty straightforward approach…but others choose more consciously eccentric ways to display their creativity. Like a photo of the artist placed within a photo, or as a reflection in a mirror, or a picture of their shadow, a distanced silhouette, or a tiny figure in a landscape. Or they may be looking away from the lens, laughing with a glass of wine, or maybe the picture is simply of their hands doing the work, or they choose a symbolic object which is meant to be enigmatic and raise questions. Or there’s the blurred movement of a face in motion, a mysteriously fleeting snatch of the artist, not to be pinned down, not to be so easily defined. But many also may choose to follow the conventions of the writer’s portrait, weighting themselves towards more gravitas.
Portrait of the Writer
Here we have the black and white classic, beautifully lit, head and shoulders shot, which you’d have to pay a studio photographer to take, to achieve a look derived from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Plain ground, no distractions, a serious yet friendly expression – now that’s an art to master, and needs a skilled photographer.
Or if the writer is male and of mature years, age is suddenly a huge advantage, a veritable asset. He is shown in harsh chiaroscuro with grainy contrasts, to confer a hard lived life, a life that has accumulated much wisdom and ‘genius’ through such a wealth of experience and deep thinking, mulling over the very meaning of life, that only the great writer is capable of.
Nowadays some older women writers cast their soft focus vanity aside and follow this convention too. And why not indeed. Good for them!
But more often it’s the close cropped shot, as the camera finds the eyes, eyes full of feeling, thinking and reflection. The closer the better. Come on in! But does this become a wee bit self absorbed? But we are talking about writers here and this may be what the public expect? That’s the power of convention.
Or there are the cheery souls, who bravely cast aside these traditions to look friendly, all smiles, and approachable, and in full colour, a kind of what you see is what you get. And I’m all for that, just not too full of the joys of spring, eh? After all we mustn’t forget, we all know writing is hard work.
So, what I’ve decided is that the most important thing is just to get something you’re happy with, a head and shoulders shot, wearing a look on your face that’s as natural as possible, with maybe a backdrop that says something about you in some way – and after that you can convert it to black and white or leave as full colour – and then you’re ready to go! This one isn’t too bad…if fact it’s pretty professional, isn’t it?
But there again she could be looking a wee bit more cheerful…
SO just make sure you don’t look too self satisfied, or too full of yourself, that you look open and approachable, maybe a bit pensive, intelligent, yet not too highbrow, that you look self assured but not arrogant, that in short, you are a balanced and happy, but thoughtful human being with masses of humility…and then you’ve cracked it. Good luck with all that!
All pics from pixabay, gif from Giphy.com
Oh, and I suppose, very grudingly, it’s only fair I should put in a recent one I had to get sorted out for myself..oh jeez!