One of my dogs is sulking. I told my husband this and he replied, “Say ‘cheese’ to him.” He’s got a point. But I should back up a bit.
Today (Thursday, which will be tomorrow by the time I publish this post), I passed another milestone on my journey towards publication: I had a photo shoot to get my author photo done. I could’ve used something I already had, or I could’ve asked my husband to take one, but I am not good at having my photo taken, and I have few up-to-date photos of myself, and even fewer that I like. An author photo feels like an important photo to be happy with – an investment, even, and much as I love my husband, he will probably agree that he is neither artistic nor particulary creative. He took a photo of me on Sunday, in fact, and I looked like a large yellow whale. (That could be down to the many layers of warm clothes, too much cake, and my bright raincoat, more than to his photographic skills, to be fair.) But I digress.
I am fortunate in that I know a few excellent photographers. One has worked with me before; she photographed an exhibition for me a few years ago, and did some wonderful publicity and marketing shots for me when I was starting out as a visual artist way back when. So, while I rarely like photos of myself, Shelley has taken some I have loved and have used over and over for many things where I’ve needed a photo of myself.
However… I am older now. Dammit. I hate how that happens. None of those old pictures are who I really am now; they are images of another time in my life, another incarnation of me. For my author photo, I wanted something new. Something to see me through many books and many readers, that will stay being me for the next few years. Something to say ‘This is the start of a new journey, and I am proud of who I am at this new stage of my life.’ (The others; I was proud of those stages too, but they were those and this is this.)
Yesterday it was dull, grey, rainy, moody and the kind of weather I convinced myself would be ‘atmospheric’ if it were the same for today’s shoot. Nevertheless, I didn’t even consider cancelling to wait for a nicer day – it is what it is. I am so much better at accepting was is and what isn’t, these days. (Besides, this is Ireland, where nicer days don’t come to order.) However, today, though still dullish, the rain had rained out at some point in the night and it held off while we did the shoot. I’d love to stay I stayed clean and dry given this non-rain, but that would be a lie. And this is where the dogs came in.
Because I dislike having my picture taken, I had decided to take along my dogs. They’d give me something to focus on, help me relax. Then I thought better of this, and decided to take only one of them. Sam, lovely as he is, would be uncooperative, without doubt. He would look sulky, not perform to requests, and be contrary. Wilf, meanwhile, though mad and clingy and very much a Spaniel with all the bouncy traits that being a Spaniel incorporates, comes reliably when called, stays close, and smiles for cameras (Sam, meanwhile is a master of dirty looks and evil eyes. Cute, funny, but hardly endearing). Wilf, I thought, would engage with me for photos. Sam, it was decided, would stay home.
(Don’t try to make me feel guilty – Sam had his own incredible photo shoot a few years ago with another incredible photographer friend. But that’s another story and one I’ve told before – not here; in a different part of my life, but I’m sure you’ll hear it again one day.)
So Wilf and I, via trickery and pretence, managed to shut Sam in the house and get ourselves in the car. This, let me tell you, was no mean feat. I’ll spare you ALL the details, but it did include shutting Wilf in the back of the car, leaving the keys on the kitchen table, coming in for those, Wilf jumping across all the car seats to get out, Sam being bribed with dog treats and Wilf being fooled into jumping back into the car. The last time he went anywhere alone in the car, it wsa to have his balls chopped off, so you can appreciate why he had some reservations about leaving Sam behind.
Wilf and I then drove to a nearby village to met up with Shelley, and had what I hope was a great photo shoot. Wilf was, as predicted, largely useful and cooperative, but this is where the ‘wet‘ and ‘muddy‘ comes in. I was trying to encourage ‘close and interactive’ but not ‘put your muddy paws all over my favourite 25 year old shirt’, but it’s hard for a young Spaniel-type dog to fully understand the difference between those two instructions. I wonder how many blurry dog photos and flying mud pictures Shelley will be deleting as I type. I love working with Shelley, and she made it fun and relaxing and comfortable, and kept peering into her lenses and muttering encouraging mutterings such as ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘Lovely’, and only very occasionally, ‘Get down!’ (In Wilf’s defence, he only jumped on her once. Maybe twice.) I haven’t seen the photos yet, but I am confident that if anyone can produce shots of me I am willing to plaster on my books and publicity and marketing all over everywhere, then it will be Shelley. When we get to see the photos, look closely, and see if you can spot muddy pawprints on my favourite shirt, and the traces of Spaniel even in the photos he is not in.
Sam, when we got home, was pretending to sulk, but I know full well he will have enjoyed a peaceful hour alone, snoozing contendly and undisturbed by the ‘Me, me, me’ of Wilf lying on top of him in the same bed, or insisting it’s playtime when Sam says it’s naptime. Please don’t waste any time feeling sorry for him. I took my husband’s advice, and said ‘Cheese‘ to Sam, and he was instantly forgiving and grateful for the earlier abandonment. My animals adore cheese and will do almost anything for it. If not getting his photo taken leads to my saying ‘Cheese’ to him, Sam will choose to not get his photo taken any day.
And this, I can conclude, is why the phrase “Say ‘Cheese'” is so important in photo shoots. I hope we all love the photos as much as we love cheese.