Every author has to do it. It isn’t something we can’t avoid, and many of us have tried. Sometimes we might even feel flattered that someone cares enough to need it. You see them online, on posters, in brochures, and of course sometimes even in books. The author portrait. That’s the official looking photograph of an author looking serious. Sadly, I struggle to be taken seriously, so I ended up dressing as a bit of fruit or holding a silly book (not my own) with a face like a foetus. Here is my history as an author in the form of author portraits. Each one tells a story.
The “I just got PhotoShop on 30 Day Trial” author portrait:
Oh God, I thought this was the best photograph ever, but in hindsight it looked like my hair was bolted into my head like Lego. At this point, I could still take a forward facing photograph. Also, when an author holds his chin in his hands, we’re trying to avoid looking like a thumb and somehow offset our chin flab. I wasn’t at that point here. Yet.
The “Dazed & Confused” style shot that ended up on MySpace author portrait:
This isn’t professional in the slightest, but it captured me when I thought I could still win The Booker Prize. Sadly, I was a prize tit and totally delusional.
The “I’m legit” author portrait:
This was taken by Bob McDevitt, who can do anything and everything. He was very patient, despite my body dysmorphia making me hate how I looked. Can you see how frightened I am? In the end, Bob worked miracles out of mediocre material and gave me my best author portrait. Ta Bob.
The “What the fuck was I thinking?” author portrait:
Most authors have at least one of these shots. I always thought I’d have a new author portrait whenever I released a new book, similar to my favourite bands when they had a new album to promote. Sadly, because I couldn’t afford Bob McDevitt, I thought I’d try and make it happen for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue and made myself look like my hairline was receding to the back of my arse.
The “I’ll dress up as a bit of fruit or an insect” author portrait:
I thought my new Ladybird jacket looked really cool, and I had this taken in my kitchen. Everyone kept telling me they loved my fabulous watermelon jacket. Yes, I thought I was a Ladybird with a green wig and beret. Sigh. Sometimes I gravitate towards bright and shiny things because I grew up in such bleak concrete conditions. At the same time, I complain about not being taken seriously.
The “Chris Close” author portrait:
This was taken a few years ago at The Edinburgh International Book Festival by Chris Close, who is the in-house photographer and well-known in the creative community. It’s rather fabulous, isn’t it?
The “I’m a serious author of adult fiction” author portrait:
To celebrate Happiness Is Wasted On Me and still unable to afford a decent photographer (Bob, can I have a mate’s rate?), I found myself in Cumbernauld Library before their museum closed down. How serious do I look here? Too serious. In the end, I felt this didn’t work for me.
The “I don’t give a shit, and I’m not dying my hair” author portrait:
The current one. It’s okay, isn’t it? I’ve lost a lot of weight too, which you can see around the chin. After a bit of fat shaming online, I decided to try and lose weight. God, it’s been a mission. Until my new book is released (and first I have to finish it), I need to work out how I want to come across visually. I’m ready to turn a certain age, and my current age is when my sister passed away. Really, even an author portrait can throw up certain deeply held feelings or phobias. At the same time, it’s nice to see me as I’ve been over the years, finding my way, getting more confident in my writing and in my own skin. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I swear my next author portrait won’t be an ordeal, but something to embrace and enjoy.