We were in my local park. It’s where mothers go with their kids – depositing them on the swing-set so they can sit at a nearby picnic bench and gossip with the other mothers. Those of ‘advanced age’ like to walk hand-in-hand with their mate, perhaps feeding the ducks with their bread loaf ends.
And there I was, sitting on a log, with a pile of books in my hand, being told to ‘act natural.’
There was a moment, while I leant up against a tree, pen and notebook in hand, that the photographer said, ‘I’m sure a lot of your book was written standing up against a tree, right?’
She saw the ridiculousness in it, yet still she made me pose. She’s the photographer, though. She knows what the newspaper wants, and apparently the newspaper wants cheesy shots of a local writer in a park.
My photo was being taken for an article my local paper is doing on my book, The Vase, Reconstructed. It’s great to have the support of the community like this, but sometimes I wish I’d gone all stealth with the poetry, all Banksy-esk, so that no one would know my face and therefore not photograph it.
I hate having my photo taken. Mostly because the resulting photographs always result in Mr Thomas making fun of my pout which is something I’ve done since dislocating my jaw some years back.
(I say ‘dislocating’ but it wasn’t that bad. Basically I woke up one morning unable to open my mouth. You can imagine the panic this caused given that I, as an Italian, need to eat at half-hourly intervals. I imagined an extended period without food and got quite upset. I then imagined a thin, whippet like body and felt a little better. I was all set to go to the emergency room, and decided to have a shower first. The hot water on my jaw was enough to loosen it. For months after my jaw clicked when I ate. I soon came to realise that my jaw issues came from years of stress clenching, which I still do today. So I’ve settled on a relaxed face that involves sucking my cheeks to prevent clenching. This causes the pout. I’ll take that over clenched teeth any day. For a while there I looked like a meth addict.)
Whenever there’s a camera pointed at my face and I’m told to smile, I get all teenagery at the idea of being told what to do, and want to rebel. Yet when the photographer says, ‘come on, big smile!’ and I go into don’t-want-to-disappoint mode, I give them what they want.
Trouble is, I’m not sure that’s what anyone wants. I’m quite conscious of the fact that I’m not really smiling. I’m just stretching my mouth out and raising my cheekbones in what could be perceived as a smile, but isn’t felt. In other words, it’s fake. I’m no actress. I don’t have the ability to convey emotions on command.
My worst fear is that my fake smile, which feels foreign on my face, will have me looking Chandler-esk. What a nightmare! It is why Mr Thomas has dozens of photos of me in front of iconic British buildings and landscapes looking down-right pissed off. I don’t want to look like Chandler in photos so I don’t smile. Yet I also have the severe affliction of having a resting bitch-face. For those of you who do not know what a resting bitch face is, check out this community awareness video. It is an affliction that many of us suffer with every day. As of yet, there is no cure.
Given my concern, it seems as though at least this example turned out okay. The best thing about this photo shoot is that I managed to get all the things I love included in it – notice how Plath, Hughes and Thomas have all made a cameo, as well as Mulberry (A6 notebook in Oak) cleverly done.
If I don’t look too much like an elephant in the photos (silly me for wearing grey!) I’ll put up a link to the article when it comes out.
Having your photo taken is not such a bad thing, I guess. At least it got me out of the house!