Exactly three weeks after I took a tumble and smashed my face into concrete (see previous post) I had to have a new author head shot taken for pre-publicity for my new book (shameless self-promotion: Love Water Memory, out April 2, 2013). Yes, in August I needed a photo of ME for a book not coming out until April.
I'd been postponing with the photographer all three weeks as bruises turned purple, green, then yellow, as road rash scabbed and flaked, as skin beneath came red and angry to the surface. As swelling subsided. As my wounded self regained confidence.
When I was a tiny kid, two, three-ish, I became desperately frightened of cameras, of the flash bulbs, particularly. All photos of me from that era show me screaming and red-faced, teary eyed and snot nosed, holding my arms over my face as though the camera is going to explode in it.
By five I seemed to have recovered and marched joyously to the little seat in front of the big standing camera for my kindergarten shot. I was wearing a dress I loved, blue with white and red polka dots, and at the last minute I decided my pixie bangs would look far more stylish swept to the side. The photo turned out darn cute, but my mom was not happy with my impromptu hairstyling.
I became increasingly self conscious in school photos, as adolescents do, but by the time it was senior picture time, I was determined to look sexy and serious, grown up. All things I was not. Unbeknownst to me, I'd eaten tainted chicken at a friend's house the week before and was in the beginning throes of salmonella, which accounts for the sweaty pale face, but even that was okay because I was wearing my denim halter dress. Or rather my sister's denim halter dress. I mostly filled it out.
When we got the proofs (which took about as long back then as it did for the salmonella to have its evil way with me before retreating), I chose the one I loved: me, sitting in the grass, leaning back on one elbow, nostrils flared, not smiling, but dead sexy. My pasty complexion was camouflaged by the filtered light of tree leaves.
My mother hated it. "This one looks like you," she said, indicating the goofiest of the bunch, me with a big toothy smile, full face, my hair all weird, the sexiness of the dress cropped out. "You can have the one you want for the yearbook, but I'm ordering this one to hang on the wall."
Of course, when the yearbook came out, guess which photo appeared. I was crushed. I'd so desperately wanted to look like someone I was not. Thus began an adulthood of hating photos of myself, of being too critical, of stiffening up so much in front of them that I did that weird snarl-smile thing that Chandler did on Friends in the episode about his not being photogenic.
And now I need to have photos taken regularly, because that is what authors do, for book jackets and websites. I had to figure out how to smile in front of a camera, just a natural smile, just a friendly face for readers to connect with. And this is what occurred to me, finally. We are beautiful to those we love (as they are to us). So I started looking into camera lenses as though I was looking into the eyes of someone I loved, smiling at them they way I would upon seeing them for the first time in a long time.
Hello, I think, looking into the lens. I love you. It's so good to see you.