In Tina Fey’s book, she says that she loves photo shoots. Beyond the free coffee bar, and the make-up artist and hairstylists, apparently Tina’s photographers are always saying things like, “Perfect!” “Beautiful!” “Amazing.”

Here’s what my photographer says:
“Stick your chin forward a little because otherwise it looks like you have no chin, which makes you look fat. Unless you want to look fat. Do you want to look fat?”

Joe Biederman
My awesome photographer, who ironically hates to have his picture taken. I'm not yet sure how he likes being written about.

I’m sure this question was rhetorical, and also he started laughing, but I said “NO!” just in case. And I admit, he was not paid nearly as highly as Tina’s photographers likely are. In fact, all Joe got from this particular gig was a paid ticket into the Franklin Park Conservatory, which was where he chose to take the pictures of me. (I know that sounds cheap, but it’s $8.50 more than I paid him for the cover photos on Nobody’s Hero.)

This afternoon was an attempt to produce one photo of me that I’m willing to put on the back of paperback copy of previously mentioned novel. Joe took pictures for an hour and a half, in practically every different greenhouse, Himalayan Mountains, Tropical Rainforest, the Desert. The desert was the most fun, due to all of the cacti you can poke with your fingers to see how sharp the needles are, even though I’m sure this is against the rules, but we did not read the pamphlet very closely, so maybe it’s okay. (I did make sure there were no little kids watching when I tested how cold the waterfalls were in the Rainforest. I really don’t want to be a bad influence.) We’re not even totally sure we were allowed to be taking pictures here without a permit– not for commercial reasons at least. So we tried to be inconspicuous, which I don’t think is something I do well.

The whole thing would have been a great way to spend an afternoon– the conservatory is wonderful, especially in the winter because it feels like summer, and off the top of my head, I can think of no one I’d rather break rules with than Joe Biederman. Except for the horrible horrible experience of having my picture taken. This is torture. I can think of nothing more capable of creating severe anxiety than having a camera pointed at my face. From a very close distance. (I kept my chin out.)

The truth is, I’m not very photogenic. My middle son will often say to me, wow you look really good today– I’ll take your picture. Click. Then: “Oh. Ew. Sorry, Mom.”

So that’s the knowledge I’m starting with here. And the first fifty or so shots did not help. I will say that after a couple hundred and figuring out how to get my eyes to to stay open while I’m smiling–it’s tricky– we may have two that are good enough. At one point, I asked how many gigs were on his SD card, and he said, don’t worry, a lot. And I brought an extra. And an extra battery.

It would make a good cereal bowl.

It seems I wasn’t the only one concerned.

The most fascinating thing I learned this afternoon was not about plants or biospheres, but that the photographer does not like having his picture taken. At all. So of course I made him switch with me and took his picture with his camera–though those shots are probably deleted by now. Good thing I had my cell phone.

On the way out of the conservatory, we did find the appropriate payment, should I ever write a best selling novel. Only $5,100, so right now I can’t even pay the sales tax.

But one day, Joe. One day.

One thought on “How about if I take the pictures instead?

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