Janet Urquhart: A picture worth a thousand groans
February 5, 2004
That’s the publication date of the first column I ever wrote. I know one individual who insists it remains my best column to date, which I guess implies my work has been subpar ever since. Whatever.
It’s not like I actually wanted to be a columnist, but I wrote one on a whim while I was working the night shift. I had spent the morning skiing powder at Highlands when it suddenly dawned on me, as I was riding the old, slow Cloud Nine lift, that I wasn’t wearing a bra. And, my skiing was better than usual.
I figured there had to be a correlation and pounded out a column about it that night. I forwarded it to the editor in chief to see what he thought of the effort. He thought, “Hmmm, here’s a good way to fill Su Lum’s space on Wednesdays” (she was hospitalized at the time).
The next thing I knew, I was having my picture taken, the results of which were only slightly less painful than smearing ink on my face and running it through a printing press to reproduce my likeness on the page each week.
I hate having my picture taken and I generally hate photos of myself, but I was not alone in hating the photo that ran with the column. For five years, everyone from my mom to total strangers have pestered me to get a new one.
One friend insisted the photo has been keeping me from finding true love ” presumably with someone who opens the paper and is instantly smitten. Yeah, right.
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This week, you may note, I have a new photo.
I hate it.
I can only think of two photos of myself that I like. One was taken when I was about 23; the other, oddly, is my driver’s license photo. I’m thinking about giving up driving when it expires, rather than having my picture retaken.
My old column photo, I was informed ad nauseum, didn’t do me justice. Nonetheless, it must have captured my likeness pretty accurately, since strangers frequently recognized me from the picture.
Still, I liked being able to agree, “Yeah, it’s not a very good picture.”
That’s a lot better than having a photo that does me justice and is still awful. I had one of the staff photographers fire off several dozen digital shots in hopes of finding a suitable replacement for the old photo. And by suitable, I mean something that would make me look like Meg Ryan.
No such luck. They say the camera adds 10 pounds. I think it added jowls, too. And wrinkles.
I peered through the little window in the back of the camera and dismissed picture after picture with an escalating series of groans. I’ve seen more flattering photos on the post office wall.
There’s room for improvement with this new photo. Fortunately, improvements are entirely possible in this era of computer-altered images. By the time I’m finished rearranging my pixels, I plan to bear a striking resemblance to Kristin Scott Thomas.
[The newspaper’s production director suggested Janet Urquhart could easily be made to look like Helena Bonham in “Planet of the Apes.” Her e-mail ” Janet’s, not Helena’s ” is firstname.lastname@example.org]