I am not the most photogenic of people. Let’s be honest, I’m not the most people of people. And when someone advances on me with a camera, my reaction is either to scowl or pull a silly face. On occasions, however – usually on pain of death – I have to behave.
Gollanczfest was one of those occasions. The lovely team at Lawrie Photography were hired to ‘do’ several of the authors that day (oh, I hope they were paid well, for we are an ornery bunch), and of the several hundred they took of me, four were deemed suitable for public consumption, and two of which I’m going to share with you now.
There’s this one:
Which is very authorial. I even have my authorial jacket on (it’s one of two jackets I own, and the other is my hatch/match/dispatch suit, which is way too formal for slumming it in a bookshop).
I sort of like this. It’s recognisably me. I’m creased, and grey, and I’ve got my specs on, and you can see that I’ve lived in this frame for fifty-odd years. Which is okay, because I have. I’ve earned the lines, the scars, the bags. Maybe it’s a bloke thing, but I don’t know: I’m at the point now where I find older faces are interesting.
The other two from this suite are even more authorial, but I find them a bit generically authorial. It’s the same head shot that everyone has, the same expression, the same to-camera gaze. This one, with my head on a slight tilt? Okay. I can live with this.
Then there’s this one:
When I saw this, I joked it was my “I’m about to shank the photographer” expression. We had been at it for about half an hour by this point, me and Lawries, getting me to stand like this, look that way, hold my head just so, shoulders down, neck forward, chin down. I did what I was told, because I’m a pro and I don’t diss the other members of the team, but I didn’t know what it was they were looking for, and maybe they didn’t either.
We tried several versions of this, facing left, facing right, glasses on/off, jacket on/off. Do I look dangerous in this? The slight flush of the skin, the slight raise of the corner of my mouth, the unshielded glare of my uncorrected vision (even though the camera was close enough that I could still see it). There is a hint of motion in this that the other doesn’t have, like I’m just setting off. It is definably me, yet I don’t quite recognise all aspects of myself.
Ultimately, it’s not up to me. Marketing will get to decide what gets slapped on publicity that comes from them. I kind of hope they go for the bottom one, will be happy with the top one, and who knows? It may be neither. But it was an interesting experience – a first, in fact – and kudos to the Lawries, who knew what they were doing after all.