When I started my weblog, I threw up a photo because I wanted people to know there really was a legitimate person behind this site. Plus I figured that as a columnist, I'd have to do it anyway so I might as well just put myself on out there. The unfortunate thing is that while no one is under any obligation to post their photo, when a woman doesn't, people start drawing their own conclusions.
Recently, blogger and columnist Michelle Malkin changed her weblog photo. When she did, people had a lot to say. It's a seemingly insignificant thing, but I bring it up because in the past, Malkin's opposition had a field day with her looks. Posting your photo online makes you an open target--especially if you're a woman with contrarian views. People cannot fight the urge to draw some sort of connection between works and appearance.
Some interesting conversation has been generated around the idea of how a person's image contributes or takes away from their writing/weblog. Mick at "Uncorrelated Thoughts" writes:
I suspect in most cases, NOT having a photography probably serves the reader the best...LaShawn Barber
has a nice, friendly picture on her site. She seems happy to see me and has cookies in the living room... Does it help the blog? In LaShawn's case I think it does. Nothing intimidating or off-putting about it.
Interesting. I can't really imagine what people might imagine me to look like without seeing my picture, but it's a given that we all formulate some idea of what a person looks like regardless of tangible proof.
Words and thoughts don't exist in a vacuum. There are real-live breathing people behind every thought that's ever been expressed on the earth. Whether or not those people choose to identify themselves (and how they go about doing that) seems to be entirely dependent on the culture.
Take for example, the real estate industry. Most real estate agents display their picture in their advertisements. I once asked an agent why they did this. The reality is that purchasing a home is a major decision and when clients can see the face of potential agents, it establishes credibility and comfort.
Similarly, major newspaper columnists generally have their photo published alongside their work as well.
So what does credibility look like? It depends on the times. There has long been a debate around about whether or not Ludwig van Beethoven was a black man. We're not talking Afrocentrism here (which I don't agree with), but mounting evidence that Beethoven was not "white". I'm a pianist so this discussion has always intrigued me. What I find so fascinating (and telling) is the lengths to which some scholars have gone to refute Beethoven's "blackness." I mean, surely Moonlight Sonata and other great classical scores could not have been written by a black face. Not now, and certainly not in 18th century Germany right?. So why the battle? Well, it's all about perceived credibility.
We subconsciously prefer the vessels of certain expression to look a certain way. I often think my age works against me. I opt not to put my photo on the frontpage because I'd rather people first read my words. Funny though because when I read columns and weblogs, there's a certain mystique about visual anonymity that forces us to use our imaginations.
Afterthought: Incidentally, somebody emailed me and told me it was time to update my photo, so my brother and I shot each other's photo yesterday for fun. I'm not too pleased so this one will be temporary, but my brother...is he my twin or what?