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Promotional Author Photographs

I have mixed feelings about Paul Hiebert’s post from about a week ago about Promotional Author Photographs.

One the one hand, it was hard not to laugh, and to indeed recognize the forced poses, unnaturality and generic lack of personality in many of the photos. The ones with the hand under the chin or against a cheek are downright reminiscent of Christmas cards taken at department store portrait studios.

On the other hand, I think it’s easier to skewer something and make fun of it than it is to come up with appropriate alternatives, and while, yes, many authors’ jacket photos do depict them sitting on a couch with one arm over the back, that doesn’t strike me as forced or strange at all. And the ones of them at their typewriters, computers, messy desks covered in paper are rather charming. Like seeing the creature in its natural habitat. Even if they’re staged, they make sense to me.

Either way, I enjoyed seeing all the author photos together that way, and it brough to mind an author photo that cracked me up. A year or two ago I interviewed Mary Roach, author of the bestselling book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void as well as several other books about science from the perspective of sex, the supernatural, and death. She was wonderful to interview, very nice and open and down to Earth and funny. And she invited me to use any of the photographs from her web site for the interview. This wasn’t the one I went with, but I did love it:

Photo by Ed Rachles

Photo by Ed Rachles

Say what you will, but it is decidedly not a cliched author photo.

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