I wish I looked as good in headshots as some people these days look in mugshots.
In headshots, when I am trying to look friendly, I look as though someone has struck me on the head with something blunt and left me temporarily dazed. If I am trying to look more than friendly, forget it. I don’t have a come-hither look. I have a go-hence look. I look like I’m trying to protect my young from territorial encroachment. The only look I can reliably pull off in pictures is Civil War Soldier Of Whom This Will Be The First And Only Picture Ever Taken. Other than that, forget it.
This is not a boon in our age of advanced phone technology, an age that means there are cameras everywhere, in the hands of friends, enemies and random strangers on the sidewalk. You can only filter so much. With all the tools at our disposal, we can actually make kale look vaguely palatable. But, alas, I am not kale.
Possibly this is all the fruit of years of coaching from my parents to “look natural.” “LOOK NATURAL!” my mother shouted, the instant someone brandished a camera in my direction. “RELAX YOUR MOUTH!” (I still don’t know how to obey this instruction. I always look like the novocaine has not worn off.)
I don’t know what natural looks like. My most natural expression conveys the impression that someone has said something threatening, just out of frame, and I am trying to put on a strong front for my family.
Surely this cannot be my fault. No, this is the fault of everyone who has taken a picture of me, from my childhood up to the present.
At least in my mind, I look stunning, not stunned, and I wish more pictures reflected this.
Meanwhile, look at all these absolutely knockout mugshots. Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) can take a flattering mug shot, and he has the patented George W. Bush Squint, the one that implies that he is squinting angrily at some text a little bit too far away to read with comfort. Yet look at him, here! He looks like Josh Brolin! He could go star in an ill-received 2013 remake of “Oldboy” right now and nobody would notice the substitution.
Surely it’s not Rick Perry’s doing.
No, it’s just that mugshot artists are getting better and better. Something has changed. If you are a really gifted photographer, capable of taking a flattering shot that will light up a room, you don’t go work for magazines. You head down to the county booking center and volunteer.
I think this is a trend. First there was that man, identified only as the Sexy Convict, who looked good enough to cover a magazine with. You could use those cheekbones to cut cheese, I think (I am unclear on the mechanics of how cheese is cut).
Philip Bump has already assembled a lovely guide to the best political mugshots, but this goes deeper than that.
These are skilled artists.
Yes, there are still bad mug shots. But most of the people in those shots have fewer than three teeth, or are wearing shirts with their previous mug shots on them.
No, the way forward is clear. If I want a good picture taken of myself, I have to go where the pictures are good: the country booking station.
“… And that, officer, is the only reason I was doing 83 in this school zone with several illegal tropical fish in open containers of …”
(Well, it was worth a shot.)