My current profile picture is a tight crop of a family photograph taken on the beach at West Bay, Dorset. It’s cropped to exclude the other four people in the original picture. It wasn’t taken by me so I had little to do with the composition or other technical aspects but I had some control over the way I presented myself.
I am engaged with the process; I look directly at the camera and participate with the rest of the group. I allow myself to be portrayed in a relatively uncontrived way – I’m wearing the same things as I was when I left the house, at which time I was not consciously contemplating the possibility of being photographed.
I’m wearing a hat, a ‘baseball cap’. I have no affinity with baseball, it’s just the name of the hat. I’ve been a wearer of such hats for about twenty years and I can’t recall what started it. Possibly a personal re-invention, this aspect of which has endured. Over the years I have come to value the protection it affords – having spent a lot of time sailing I value the eye-shade. I have very little hair left so it also acts as a skin protector. I’m aware that I am ‘known’ for this style of titfer and it has become part of my outward presentation. I often forget I’m wearing it and need prompting to remove it when it’s considered inappropriate to the occasion (to my mind these are far fewer than other people think).
I am hidden by the hat and by facial hair, somewhat unkempt. This apparent concealment probably has much to do with a general disregard for the importance of male grooming but would probably reward more detailed psychological scrutiny.
Practically every ‘aspect’ of me – the me I consider to be the constituents of my personality – is absent. Nothing unusual about this particular picture, none of the pictures which show me reveal anything other than that which is clear from the elements themselves.
Working on the theory that there needs to be more blunt clues to personality I’ve made a new profile picture, one which may offer more accessible information to the viewer. I’m put in mind of the portrait painters of the 16th and 17th centuries who made liberal use of significant objects included in their work. The symbols may be literal, such as an artist with paintbrushes, or metaphoric such as the globe for colonial aspirations. Portrait paintings were mainly the preserve of the wealthy and ennobled, and this group were generally well acquainted with iconographic significance.
The hat stays. It has a relevance to the other visual cues. I am not looking at the camera, rather to the items on the table. My eyes are not visible and I’m not inviting any gaze to myself, more encouraging mutual contemplation.