The Influence of the Author Photo

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There’s a moment not often talked about in the reading process: turning to the cover flap and seeing the face of the story’s creator. It’s a reminder that the story didn’t appear out of thin air, that a real flesh-and-bones person toiled over the product in our hands. Over at Lit Hub, Dustin Illingworth investigates some of the most iconic author photos, analyzing the impact the nuances of their faces and expressions have on the reading process:

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.


Victor Luo is a graduate of UC Davis's MA in Creative Writing program specializing in fiction. He lives in Los Angeles where he loves never having to be cold. More from this author →