Due to reader complaints (!), I had my column photo retaken recently. The previous one was shot by one photographer who took the entire staff’s portraits one day in late 2012. It was like class picture day in school, except there was no advance notice.
I trooped in as ordered. Most of the instructions had to do with squaring my shoulders and turning to the side while facing the camera. A bright light shone on me. No attempt was made to amuse me, such as by squeezing a squeaky toy or jingling a bell.
My idea for a mug, as we call them, was to make my expression all-purpose. No need to look too giddy if the column it accompanies might one day happen to be about nuclear fallout. I tried to keep my smile modest.
Months flew by, seasons passed, and suddenly one day in mid-2013 the mug showed up online and in print as my new official portrait. (The print version is round and the exact size of a dime. It looks like I’m being viewed through a porthole. The online version is from the chest up.)
That small smile turned out to be impossible to spot without a magnifying glass. Also, the open shirt, high collar and low angle combined to render a version of me that did not fit my persona, or really resemble me closely.
“Why do you look angry?” one friend asked. “You look tough,” a co-worker said. “Are you going to beat me up?” a third worried.
Through fall and winter, I made three requests for a new photo. Finally, when a higher-up suggested I pose for a photo for publicity purposes, I brought up the mug. A fresh one was shot the next day. Two colleagues, Liset Marquez and Monica Rodriguez, also had new, more flattering portraits taken.
This time I resolved to smile. Laugh, even. Jennifer Cappuccio Maher obligingly kidded around with me as she clicked the shutter in our studio. A day later, the new photo showed up online, and a few days later in print. Looks far better, although I wish I’d checked a mirror and buttoned one more button.
A few people (including Upland Councilman Gino Filippi) have told me it’s a big improvement. And a reader from Upland named Rosemary emailed me under the subject line “Your smiling face” as follows:
“Thank God you have a new picture for your column. The other one made you look like a very unsavory character. (Are you?) I enjoy your column very much, especially when you write about your Metrolink trips into L.A. You have a nice smile, what took you so long to attach it to your column?”
Gee, I dunno (digs toes into dirt). I just hope no one complains when I write about somebody who died and my photo looks like I’m yukking it up.