Just when you think that nothing more could be written about books, you find a story called How Author Photos Change the Way we Read. This story by Dustin Illingworth speaks about a habit that all readers have of glancing at the dust jacket of a book in search of the author’s face. If you love the writing, that face speaks to you more and you feel a strange longing, as though by looking at the author’s face, you own the book a new way.
So Illingworth speaks of famous authors whose photos have captivated the world. Take Virginia Woolf, Kafka, Plath, Kerouac, and so many others.
“But when we let our gaze linger on the photographed faces of our literary heroes, how much of what we feel can be attributed to readerly intuition—and how much to fantasy? Affixed to the backs of book jackets, touched and smudged and gazed at longingly (or enviously, as it were), the image of the author has become an underappreciated accessory to the ritual of modern reading. These photographs, with the drama inherent to a human face, offer up a kind of ready-made narrative potential that we seize on, often before we’ve read a single page. We take in the glowing eyes, the spectral hands, the starched collar, the frozen smile, and in that encounter a feeling—a story—begins to unspool in our minds. That reflexive flash becomes a kind of echo that stays with us when the actual reading begins, a conversation between text and image, image and text. If ours is a culture of visual primacy, is it any wonder the photos of our authors come to inhabit the texts they write?