Caught on Camera

Louisa Leontiades On Writing, On Writing-Publicity

Self-promotion, I’m discovering, is part and parcel of a writer’s life. Tweeting unashamedly about a book that some people might feel should be relegated to the erotica section of the bookstore, is one of the most challenging obstacles I’ve faced yet (yes, beyond even squeezing two children out of my vagina). Book promotion takes work, constant content, personalised emails written to book bloggers, journalists and top Amazon reviewers. It means making yourself visible and for a crowdfunding campaign… a video. Then another. Then head shots.

There are a select few photos on my boyfriend’s hard drive that are, shall we say, unashamedly for his eyes only. But apart from heavily vetted and otherwise ‘instagrammed’ photos on facebook, I’ve always been wary about being photographed. Even less so, filmed. Yet I’ve come a long way in trying to be more visible, trying to a woman whose voice is worth hearing (just like every other individual). And I’ve done well…through writing that is. But displaying my face criss-crossed with the facial scars which were a gift from a car accident one Christmas Eve when I was 12, meant facing even more demons.

Becoming an author has been an amazing journey. It’s meant owning my own worth. It’s meant speaking my mind out loud even in the face of great adversity. It’s demonstrating that you can live the life you want even if it’s at odds with society. And more importantly if your life like mine – to all the externally defined barometers – is judged a failure, it means facing up to criticism and conflict. It’s meant doing all of that in the public eye. Not, I concede to the extent of the Lindsay Lohan’s demise – but nevertheless, opening my marriage, facing divorce and cheating. Not something our society traditionally praises.

So today the photographer came round to create high resolution publicity shots and I was more than a little nervous. Since the light right now in Sweden only lasts for about 4 hours, and the weather isn’t dazzling even then, we went outside. Usually I’d be wearing my down coat. But no, my Swedish photographer likes to see the essence of woman (she’s an open spirit, and a feminist which is one of the reasons I picked her). Little did I know that this meant no coat, no gloves, no scarf and a hint of cleavage…in 3 degrees. I have new found respect for models in bikinis, let me tell you.

‘Move a little bit.’ She said as I shivered on the spot.  ‘Take that imaginary machete and hack your way through the undergrowth! I’ll get the shots in between. Work it honey!’

Could you photoshop the scars out? I said nervously.

She took my face and stroked my cheek.

‘Ah how beautiful. You have lived’ she said reassuringly, not reassuring me in the slightest. ‘Don’t worry.’

And so feeling like an utter idiot I laughed and grimaced my way through the absolutely non-existent jungle on the icy jetty next to my home.

‘That’s great.’ She said. We can go inside now, and get some softer shots. I have 250 shots on this camera and we’ve only done 100.’

The torture was not over yet. In the warmth of the house she photographed me looking determinedly away from the lens as my boyfriend smirked in the background. Finally she beckoned him over.

‘I like to take shots of emotion.’ she said. ‘Pain yes, but more than that pleasure. We get so few of them. I once had a doctor who told me that he made his lover scream with pleasure every day. This is what the world needs. Happy women. Ecstatic women. Kiss her as if you’re about to make her scream. I want that glow.’

So he kissed me as I heard the shutter click in rapid fire. And when he stopped, I beamed and laughed. She looked at the shots and sighed in satisfaction.

‘I won’t show you now.’ She said smiling as if with a delicious secret, ‘But you are beautiful. You’ve got that glow.’