There was a brief period when I was swapping out avatars on Twitter on what seemed to be a daily basis. The one I finally settled on is one I’d used earlier, with just a hint of — yes, I admit it — ‘shoppery.
Of course, what I look like doesn’t matter a whole lot. Get into the public eye, and suddenly it’s a Matter of Colossal Import. Here are three shots of author Virginia Postrel, a favorite in these parts, each intended for a different audience:
In real life, I look more or less like the photo on the left, which is a candid of me accepting the Bastiat Prize. (I’m well lit and well coiffed.) The middle photo is the one I use most of the time as my “official” portrait and is, except for reversing the hands, a characteristic post. (My hair no longer has those post-chemo curls.) The one on the right is my Bloomberg photo, for which I had professional hair and makeup and unknown amounts of retouching. But, most important, the photographer refused to let me smile. No “smirking Girls” at Bloomberg View! (For another contrast, check out Amity Shlaes at Bloomberg View, in a candid lecture shot, and on her own website.) The expression isn’t my resting or serious face either; it’s more attractive. So the picture looks like I’m an actress playing someone else — the same physiognomy but a different personality.
In the past, I have suggested that the ideal photo of me is one in which I do not actually appear, or in which I am generally unrecognizable. (“Who the hell is that?“) After a few hours of enduring a 1978 picture of myself, I decided to install The Bird (see sidebar) as the official Gravatar, which represents me fairly well without actually showing me. Then again, I’m not a particularly public person, and no one is going to ask me for an Official Photo anytime soon. (What, isn’t the passport shot good enough?) In the unlikely event that I become semi-famous, I reserve the right to modify this stance.