How Do We Look?

As we go through all the steps of getting Navajo artist Quincy Tahoma’s biography ready for you, we have been sharing the journey here at Tahoma Blog.

Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist will be available in April, 2011, and you can preorder with the form on the right of this page. (If you are reading this in your e-mail, RSS, or Facebook, you will have to go to blog to sign up. Just click on the title of this post at the top of the page.)

Two weeks ago, we faced the scariest task of all. We had to select two portraits that would show readers the faces of the authors.  Picking one photograph that represents you as a person is always a daunting task. Our job was made much more complicated by the fact that we had to choose two pictures of two people who live across the country from each other.

We could not very well use this picture from Kappa Delta Sorority at Ohio State University, where we first met fifty years ago.

That's Charnell in the top left corner and Vera in the bottom right.

We do have a more recent picture of the two of us in Tuba City doing research, but the sun was in our eyes, we’re still not color coordinated, and Vera’s hair style has changed since then.

Vera and Charnell at Tuba City Trading Post

We couldn’t just run down to the corner photographer and get a picture taken together, which would ensure some kind of unity of appearance. When I told Charnell that I (Vera) was going to have my photograph taken outdoors here in Southern Arizona, she just laughed. ¬†It was threatening snow in Virginia where she lives.

Arizona blue skies

Virginia Snow

So we had to have our pictures taken separately and hope for the best.

Charnell never goes anywhere without her two dogs, so she lined them up with her beneath two of her Tahoma paintings.

Charnell indoors in Virginia, Photograph by Norm King

But meanwhile, Vera had been posing for the photographer with simpler backgrounds.

Vera Marie outdoors in Arizona, Photograph by Amy Haskell

Then both authors wised up and realized that in all probability the pictures would be cropped down to simple head shots, and finally two similar portraits were found.

Charnell Havens

Vera Marie Badertscher

After all of this, I have developed a sympathy for those authors who want readers to know only what is on the written page, totally ignoring anything about the authors behind the words–including what they look like. How about you? Do you want to put a face to a name? How much do you want to know about authors?

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12 Responses to How Do We Look?

  1. Roxanne says:

    Well, if I used a photo from age 19, you’d see a LOT of eyeliner. I think a good current (or sort or current) photo is best. The one I use online right now is from 2007, which isn’t all that long ago.

  2. Ruth Pennebaker says:

    I agree that a more current photo is better. But it adds to the story to see the two of you when you first met — your own photo biography, in a way.

  3. Alexandra says:

    I always look at the author’s photo, usually after I have started a book and am beginning to enjoy it. That’s when I get curious to see what the person, who put so much effort into the project I am enjoying, actually looks like.

  4. Kristen says:

    What an interesting process. I like seeing both pictures too–from when you two met to today. I love knowing that a friendship can withstand a co-authoring and research-intensive process.

  5. Alisa Bowman says:

    Loved reading this. I think the dogs might have sold the book, though. They are just adorable puffy things!

  6. Let's book says:

    I had a friend whose husband wrote a lot. His publisher kept after him to lose weight because they thought he looked too pudgy in his author photo! Would anyone not buy a book because the author was fat? (these were not books on weight loss, by the way). You two don’t have that problem at least!

  7. Sheryl says:

    The current photo gets my vote – same beautiful smile as the old one, but a much wiser person, no doubt!

  8. I try not to look at the author’s photo until after I’ve read the book – it might sound strange, but seeing what the author looks like influences me much like watching a movie adaptation of the book. But you two look absolutely lovely in EVERY picture!

  9. pen4hire says:

    Thanks to everyone for the flattering remarks. Nevertheless, these two authors still think that it was just short of terrifying to try to get good pictures!

  10. pen4hire says:

    Let’s book. That is so funny. I remember once an author friend was flummoxed when he was warned to trim his nose hairs before getting his portrait taken! We didn’t have that problem, though.

  11. Charnell says:

    Thanks for your comment about the pups, Alisa! Both are therapy dogs, so they visit nursing homes and hospitals to give patients (and staff) a little extra lovin’. Paisley (left) is a 45 lb standard poodle and Yogi Bear is a 95 lb goldendoodle who thinks he’s a lap dog.

  12. Charnell says:

    Just went back and looked again at our series of pictures from 1957-2010 and I was struck by one thing that threaded its way throughout the series. We look happy! And we are — especially since we know this book is soon to be released. This has been a wild and wonderful journey of the heart.

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