There comes a day in a girl’s life when she needs to choose the photo that’s going on the jacket of her first novel.
For those of you who would be very blasé about this, please could you humour me here? I’m not a fan of seeing myself in photographs *at all*, in fact it’s usually my behind the camera taking pictures of my beautiful kids, so there aren’t even that many these days.
Here are some pictures I’ve been happy to put online on my Twitter profile and so on, and for my author picture in the Bristol Prize Anthology.
Two of these photos are just webcam pictures from my computer, and the third was taken by a photographer friend as I emerged from a 120 hour working week and could hardly keep my eyes open.
None of them, for me, deserve to sit on a lovely book jacket on a novel I loved into life. So I decided to spend part of my advance on a proper, grown up author photo. I called a proper, grown up photographer…
“What do you want, by way of a photo?” She asked.
“I want it to look like me, only better,” I said. “I want it to say ‘friendly’, but also ‘wise’. I need to to make my eyes look bigger and my face less fat, but I don’t want you to retouch it to do that. Is that OK?”
“I think you should just relax,” said Debbie.
I didn’t really relax. I went into a big and very silly panic about hair and makeup and outfits. And all the while I was wishing I was a male novelist, who could just grow a day’s stubble, put on a leather jacket and lean against a wall.
But since I’m not, I went MAC instead, for a make-over with the lovely Benjamin (artist, illustrator and fan of English literature). If you ever want to be made to feel fabulous and not at all self-conscious, I fully recommend it. It costs £25, but you can then choose cosmetics to the value of £25 when you leave. What’s not to like about that? Benjamin put a good hour into buffing me up to be camera ready. I must have needed it!
Next stop, Liverpool Street station to meet with photographer, Debbie Scanlan.
Debbie: “How are you?”
“Don’t be daft. Come on,” she said, “let’s go and get coffee and cakes.” So we go and find a cafe and tuck into treacle tart. We chat as though we’ve known each other years (this is what Debbie does) and then the camera comes out. I freeze up.
“It’s OK,” she said, “I’m just testing the light.”
“The best way to look good on a photo,” she said, is to tilt your chin down slightly, and then look up with your eyes. Try it.”
I do. Click, click, click, click.
Afterwards we went outdoors and sat in a small park, taking more photos, and laughing at passers by, who were clearly thinking I was famous, and also checking out Debbie’s bum as she turned herself into a bendy human tripod. We took more pictures. Lots more, in fact. Here are a couple of those. Plus (by demand) the “Freaky face” one…
After discussions with husband, children and best mates, there was an overwhelming concensus as to which was the most ‘Claire’ and the most suitable for a book jacket. Which do you think?