Friday, December 24, 2004

Compromising Photos!

I was talking with my friend Judith (not her real name), who helped me put the cover proof of my next book up on this blog. We were chatting about the vicissitudes of the literary life, and I mentioned that posterity, should it ever think to take note of me, will find only one photograph extent: when I served as consultant for the Grolier Electronic Enecyclopedia of Science Fiction (an excellent resource, now sadly out of print), the producer told the staff photographer to get a picture of me. So if you get that CD and look up my entry, you will see a decent-looking photo of me, no worse for being almost ten years old.

Judith laughed bitterly. There are lots of pictures of her floating around, including a bunch of very unflattering ones that had appeared in Locus. Locus, a trade magazine for science fiction (once very influential, now rather eclipsed by the fact that people in the field can get their news online), is famous for running bad-looking photographs. The editor-publisher used to take the photos himself, but now uses professionals. Somehow the quality of the photos isn't really much better, even though the publisher is a terrible photographer and his professionals tend to be pretty good.

I was commiserating with Judith -- Locus will never run a photo of me, and we both know it -- when she suddenly said "No, that's not true -- I'm sure there are photos of you online." And I realized she was right. For the past several years, people who go to science fiction functions and take pictures of people have gone home and uploaded their photos. Anyone who has attended a Nebula banquet or a SFWA authors-editors party in the past half dozen years is probably featured in some group photo that somebody uploaded to a site, if perhaps only briefly.

Judith said we could go to Google and search on Images. I didn't know that Google had this feature (I am always one step behind the cutting edge), but while I was absorbing this, she executed the command herself and her quick DSL line brought up, yes, photos of Gregory Feeley. The nice one from the CD is available, to my surprise. Search on "Greg" rather than "Gregory" and you will indeed find me in a group shot.

So while we're talking, I search on Judith. And oh my gosh! There is a very nice image of her, from a recent just jacket, but there are also . . . awful Locus photos! (Which is why I won't use my friend's real name.) And not just Locus. A deeply unflattering photo put up by the university where she delivered a talk, writers' conference photos taken by supposed friends . . . this is awful. There is even a photo of a very overweight woman who isn't Judith; it was taken at some Women's Studies function described on a site where Judith's name is presumably mentioned.

Everybody knows that even nice-looking folks can be profoundly ill-served by an inept photograph, but this is really rubbing one's nose in the fact.

I have decided that Google Images is a tool of the devil. I will resolutely resist the temptation to look for embarrassing photos of people I don't like. (And I certainly won't look for photos of friends!)


Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

The only photo of me to appear in Locus with my name appended to it was one where (if you know what you're looking at) I'm breastfeeding at SFWA party. Hubba hubba, right?

It was irresistable, Greg: I Google'd you and found the (you're right) nice picture of you from 10 years ago, plus one of you with Eileen Gunn. Otherwise, a good number of guitars seem to come up. Searching for my own image I found the author photo I'm using on my website, a really awful picture of me at a convention, some jpegs of book covers, and a number of other weird things. What a strange thing.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Friends don't let friends know a poorly-taken picture of them is online?

2:37 PM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Ah, you guys didn't use quotation marks around your search.

The guitars are the site of one "Paul Gregory" who has a link on his site to "John Feeley."

Strangely, the excellent photo does not appear unless one does not use quotation marks, at which point it appears first.

We could probably figure something out about Google's search engines from that...

2:41 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

I think Judith sounds awfully cranky. Probably never lets you finish a sentence, either.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Judith is worth the trouble of putting up with her.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Adi said...

Thank you for sharing.
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