January 9, 2009
That Old Bookcase Backdrop
Pastors do it.
Yes, I've done it too. But it’s a visual cliché, folks. Let’s not get our professional or “author” photo taken against the backdrop of shelved books. Just today, trying to find some info on an author, I once again visited a church website (it could have been an academic site). There it was again. Everyone’s posing in front of bookshelves. (Among pastors, this is particularly endemic among Presbyterians, or at least those who aspire to the “learned ministry.”)
If you are a pastor or scholar, writer or editor, these days you need all the help you can get to defy the stereotypes and at least look like you have other interests! Try getting your photo taken against a backdrop of your favorite activity or coffee shop or maybe with your dog or cat.
Do you realize that when the books are lined up behind you, it’s an open invitation for other book people to evaluate you by what’s on your shelves? Really. It’s like you’ve posted a patch of your mind on YouTube for scrutiny. We get a 3 x 4 foot glimpse of what books you think are authoritative on a random selection of topics. And let me tell you, that’s what we bookies immediately focus on. (I confess that I immediately start to study the book spines!) And it's not all congratulatory. “He actually bought that book?” “Why doesn’t she have my book?” “It doesn’t look like that library has been updated since graduating from seminary in the 80s!” So if you are going to do the old book-backdrop routine, choose those books carefully. Very carefully.
And another thing, make sure your photographer is taking care not to make your look foolish. You know--shelves coming out of your ears or Calvin’s Institutes balanced on your head. Frankly, that’s just silly.