The day begins ominously. As I brush on mascara, the magnifying mirror pulls itself loose from the wall in my hotel bathroom. I text a photo to Amy, the proprietress of Mears Photography Studio, promising not to break the camera.
I also warn I may need wardrobe help. I’m not a glamour-puss. More like a glamour-possum. I tend to lose interest in shopping and head home with an empty pouch.
Before leaving New Jersey for Ohio, the planned photo shoot forces me into the high-end mall, filled with body-guard-at-the-door boutiques I’m afraid to enter. I opt for Nordstrom and walk in with “I will buy stuff” determination.
What image should writer Veronika Roo project? Head bitch in charge? Mysterious vamp? Goofball-next-door?
A lumpy middle-aged woman stares back at me in the dressing room mirror and says, “I’ll take it” several times. Let’s hope clothes make the ma’am.
I duck into the Macy’s, shriek and scurry away. The Tasmanian Devil, a carnivorous marsupial, must have been the last creature to shop there, leaving chaos in her wake. My on-hand purchases will have to do.
In her Chillicothe studio, Amy examines my six shirts—three new—and says, “I’ll loan you a sweater.”
Okay. Ready. The studio transports me to another world. Lights. Backdrops. Set design. Kevin, an award-winning photographer, tells me—repeatedly—to drop my chin. Um, you don’t want your pictures to feature my nostrils? If you say so...you’re the expert.
Kevin has me laughing and feeling surprisingly unselfconscious. Rock music blares and the experience is utterly fun. Especially since I’m working with Amy.
I stop to switch from my new shirt to a borrowed V-neck sweater. Amy layers-up my make-up, until every hide-able facial flaw is concealed. That’s a lot of paint, I learn, when I wipe it all off moments after the shoot is done and examine the handful of paper towels covered in skin-colored smears.
I’m posed in different vignette’s, on a purple chair and red velvet couch, under an enormous hat. I feel like a movie star.
I follow the Mears empire on Facebook. Week after week, they post photos of high school seniors who look like cinema icons and smiling families that appear genuinely happy. Kevin and Amy were the team I wanted when I needed a portrait for my author endeavors.
Back in New Jersey, I see a plethora of poses in three different shirts. The lighting of each shot is perfect, even if Kevin’s subject is not. I see from the file numbers just how many pictures had to be deleted. (Glad I was spared the grim reality of those shots.)
One of my favorites features me with my confidant from junior high. Amy remained my friend as I moved from a valley near Amish country to the suburbs of Columbus, got my journalism degree from Bowling Green State University, took off for New York City, transitioned to Pennsylvania and settled into married life with my Jersey boy.
It takes me days to make the final selections. I worry about retouching. Will I look plastic? Will people who know me call me a fraud?
Nope. The images come back and I still look like me.
Now if only I could get retouched in real life… Thankfully, like me, most friends my age are losing their eyesight, so the people who love me most see me in soft focus.
The author’s shot now graces the front page of my website, replacing the original: