Friday, 24 April 2009

Looking at your own self

It was entertaining for me to be reminded, recently, by my friend Johann (a great sounding-board for honesty, unwelcome though it sometimes is), how awful it is to hear one’s own voice recorded. In playback, I always listen for a few moments, appalled, to someone rather silly and very nasal spouting fast-forward nonsense, before realising it’s me. Then I want to die.

Every bit as bad is being confronted with photographs of yourself. Someone once said to me, on looking at some pictures, ‘You’re better when you move.’

Well. Yes.

One of the very nasteh things about being a writer is having, from time to time, to submit some sort of witty, pithy 100-word prĂ©cis of yourself that won’t make you sound like a blithering idiot or, worse, a pretentious twat, and will tell readers everything they need to know, and what you want them to know about you.

That’s bad enough. (At left is my favourite. I just made it all up.)

Worse is submitting a photograph.

Writers are writers, and not actors or politicians or, say, preachers, because generally they’re not keen about being physically in the public eye. Perhaps there’s an element of cowardice about this, yes – that’s not what I’m debating now (although I’m willing to, with anyone who wants to pick an argument – with the exception of my friend, madly popular author and irksomely successful media slut Tony Park). What I am saying is that writers write, mainly, because they’re happier about what they ‘say’ than what they ‘do’.

So submitting a pic is always, for a writer, a matter of some discomfort.

This pic, for one of the very first articles I ever had published, was taken by my friend Michele. It was early morning, we were getting kids to school (we had, between us, three under 2 at the time), and she stood me up against a wall and said, ‘Smile!’ I couldn’t quite; this was the best I could manage.

These (left and below right) were taken by professional photographers, paid for by the publications who insisted on them. I particularly remember the colour one because I took my daughter (then about 4) with me to the studios, where I was transformed beyond all recognition by a genuinely frightening woman. Once this unrelenting makeup artist had been hard at work on me for about 15 minutes, my littlie toddled over, checked me out and said, ‘Wow, Mom, you look so pretty! All that red stuff that’s usually on your face is gone!’ (And they say pancake makeup is bad for the skin!)

I now write a column for When the editor asked for a pic, I asked Johann to take it (Johann quadtruples as a photographer). I emailed it through but it wasn’t used for my first few columns. When I asked why, the editor said, ‘The quality wasn’t good enough.’

I tackled Johann about this: why wasn’t he employing high-quality equipment?? He smirked and said, ‘I was.’ And when I looked at the pics again I had to admit they weren’t too terribly attractive. Hey, they were ME!

So I had Johann do a whole new set. This time, I put on so much makeup (I’ve been under the sponge and brush; I’ve learnt a few things) that I felt like a porcelain doll. By the time we were ready to take the pictures I could feel the base cracking and my eyelashes were starting to shed. But apparently these were acceptable.

Except I don’t think they are, really. I think I look like a barely sane hippie crystal-ball reader who could conceivably snack on children (which is, incidentally, what I’m writing about).

So tonight, with my kids safely ensconced and my housemate out getting pissed, I thought I’d take the opportunity to use my new camera to take some pics of myself that I actually like – this, after all, is the bliss of owning one’s own digital camera with a ‘self-snap’ setting, is it not?

But – and here I finally get to the point of this very long and admittedly massively indulgent post – I can’t find the blasted thing!

The options for its whereabouts are too many and varied to even investigate (including, but not restricted to, (a) stealing by Monster Baby and depositing at bottom of garden; (b) expropriating by teenage daughter for purposes of ‘interesting’ self-portraits to put on Facebook; (c) borrowing by housemate to snap drunk mates at pub).

So, for now, I’m stuck with being a hippie in a headscarf.

* Question: Do readers really want to know what writers look like? If so, why?

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Morganfay said...

Oh Tracey. Your picture paints a thousand words, gorgeous gal :).

ali g said...

Onya Tracey. You're one beautiful girl. Knocked me off my chair laughing your description of Parks

tonypark said...

Guilty, as charged.

I've just had to submit a new photo to go on my books. On two occasions I've showed up for speaking engagements and the hosts haven't recognised me from the pic in the back of my book!