I have a confession.
Take a look at my mugshot above. It’s the same photo I have as my Facebook profile picture, and it’s the same one that sits at the top of my twitter. I have an online journalism portfolio, and it’s the sole photo of me on that, too.
Take a second look. It gets better, doesn’t it?
The jaw line. The honest, friendly gaze. The perfect amount of facial hair.
Look at the lasseiz-faire hair. Look at it. Perfect.
I offer this confession not to seek forgiveness, but rather to appeal to your understanding.
My confession is this: Firstly, the man in the photograph does not exist. The man in the photograph above is me, sure, but I certainly don’t look like this guy. At a push, I look like this guy’s older brother. Weathered. Tired. Softer around the edges.
Secondly—and this one is a little hard to admit— I took 600 selfies to get this shot.
I know. It’s a lot.
Objectively, it’s an abnormally large amount of images to take of one’s self. Somewhere on my laptop, buried deep and heavily guarded by a complex 12-digit password, sits the file that contains the shots I didn’t use. It’s just killing my laptop’s performance.
But I maintain, despite suggestions from family and friends to the contrary, that taking 600 selfies in minutely different poses was not an act of vanity.
Rather it was an act of long-term professional planning.
Growing up pre-interwebs, I never had to worry about photographs of me being the first impression that a prospective employer would see. I’ve managed to coast by without my online presence demanding anything more than a blurry millennial cellphone picture to plug the holes on my social media pages.
That all changed when something I wrote was picked up by a magazine. Part of the contract stipulated that they required an author photograph. That’s when I panicked.
I paid someone to take some photos. A mall professional. But when I told her what it was for, she had me do all these weird poses that resembled low-rent reproductions of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” I was contorted into ridiculous positions. When I looked at the photos afterwards, I realized that I looked as preposterous as I’d felt whilst she was taking them.
I couldn’t send any of those in, no way. I pictured the magazine’s editors all crowded round a monitor, laughing at the faux-intellectual posturing, choking on their espressos over the grotesque parody of my author photo shoot.
So I did it myself. I set up my camera to take rapid-fire shots, and I took some selfies —600 of them.
Among the mire of gurning, twisted expressions and half-closed eyes, I found this diamond in the rough. I held my breath for a beat as it came up on the screen. Who was this man before me? The man I could have been?
Obviously, I chose that photo because I wanted to look good. I wanted to look good because I wanted to be taken seriously. I knew that the proper grownups—the ones with the jobs editing and publishing the magazines I want to work for one day—would make a snap decision based on this photograph. Or, at least, that’s how I imagined it worked, and that’s essentially the same thing.
It’s a little dishonest, really. In the same way you seniors are unashamedly padding your resumes to get your foot in employers’ doors (you’re not fooling anyone with “coordinated multi-person street teams to promote on campus events,” and “dynamic approach to experience dealing with customers in a busy environment,” by the way), I too was being selective with my truth.
I’d fluked a freelance gig and if I didn’t package it just right the professionals would see right through that little charade. By taking so many selfies, I’d essentially saved myself from that fate by exploiting the law of averages.
So anyway. That’s me, up there. Lee James Murray, aged 32, journalism student, and your newly appointed Jambar columnist.
The picture tells a fib. A white lie, and I hope you forgive me for that. But if you meet me in person, or you read this column from now on, I promise you this: I may not be what you expected, and I may not be what is expected, but this time I’ll be honest about it.
I’m still using that photo for the column, though. I mean, look at it.
I have a confession.