, Newburyport, MA


December 20, 2012

Picture this

How does one choose a head shot for a guest column?

A jacket and tie for respectability? An open-collared shirt for informality? A sweater and beret for rakishness?

And how about one’s facial expression?

Does a stern look imply righteousness, profoundness, truth? Does a smile imply warmth and friendliness? Does peering over one’s glasses suggest wisdom?

And what if a particular columnist has a variety of styles/topics/opinions?

Perhaps head shots should be taken at a boardwalk photo booth. You know the kind — the one that spits out a strip of photos with a variety of expressions. Then the writer could choose a particular pose to match the tone of a particular column.

This would be something like those pain charts at the doctor’s office, the ones that use circular face logos that progress from the happy smile to the grimace.

“How are you feeling today, Mr. Columnist? One to 10?”

“I’m pretty grumpy today. You’d better use Old Number Nine.”

Or perhaps just one neutral shot should be used to establish “brand identification.”

“Ah, yes. Another one by Jones.”

All this ignores the fact that no one else sees us as we do ourselves — literally and figuratively. Literally, we see ourselves in the mirror in a reverse image, while others see us as we actually are. Maybe that’s why we often don’t like our own pictures. Figuratively, who we are on the inside is not always what people see from the outside, sort of like that great classic from the Platters, “The Great Pretender”: “I seem to be what I’m not, you see … ”

Also, others spend less time looking at us than we do looking in the mirror at ourselves as we try to make sure that we look like we should for the day. “I can’t go out looking like this. I just can’t get my hair to look right.” Do others really notice when we’re having a bad hair day? When what we’re wearing doesn’t match the mood we’re in? Or is it just us, our own worst critics?

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