Sunday, June 2, 2013

See Me

     In Amanda Coplin's wonderful new novel, The Orchardist, there is a brief scene where a young woman has her picture taken for the first time.  The setting is American West and the time is the late 19th century.  For this badly abused, now reborn character the fascination with her own image is understandable.  We all are interested in what we look like to others.  It's part of how we define ourselves, and certainly has a significant impact on such important things as self-image/concept and personal identity.  As Coplin notes in the text, it's as if she thought her image was fixed for life, would never change.
Our self image over time has always seemed to fascinate people.  From films like longitudinal study "Seven and Up," to attempts to recreate childhood photos (now very popular on social media) our certain "look" and how or if it holds up over time commands attention.

With this in mind I was wondering the other day about the photos of various writers I regularly read.  You know those thumbnail portraits in newspapers and magazines, on web sites, Facebook pages and the like.   There are a handful of folks that flat out refuse to change those pictures.  That means that they are continuing to write and evolve under an image that is no longer accurate.  I've seen clothing and hairstyles so bad still gracing the pages of recent publications that they compete with the message the writer is attempting to impart.  In extreme cases, there is hair where none presently exists.  In others, you would be hard pressed to recognize one of your favorite and familiar writers even if he'she sat next to you in a coffee shop.  What's up with that?  Why do these well known figures refuse to visually enter this century?  I could venture a guess.  Well, it's so hard for me to get a decent picture that I just go with the one that works.  Sorry, next excuse please.  Aging musicians don't seem to have this problem.
     Perhaps these folks are refusing to recognize their age.  We all look into a mirror one day and wonder who that older person staring back could be.  I somethings think I'd rather look at a face thats all painted up, tucked and trimmed, dyed to the wool, or had the cracks filled in instead of a photo from the 1980s.   A well-marked face, one with wrinkles, fissures, scars, or other identifying marks has character.  These "life tattoos" are one of a kind beauty marks.
     Can anyone recommend a business that guarantees an honest, up to date photo or your money back?  It should be mandatory, in my view.  If we can't trust or believe in your picture, how do we know what you are saying/writing is accurate?

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