Thoughts on Head Shots and Academic Virtual Galleries

Our academic virtual world is filled with rouge’s galleries of photos showing who is who in our various departments. Often blurry, ill framed, poorly lit, such galleries seem to shout amateur. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing? Do we really want head shots that look like we’re members of a law firm or corporate execs at a fortune 500 company? I’m not sure.

There is something about the placement of head shoots in a gallery (virtual or otherwise and as useful as they might be) that invokes in my mind the venerable space of a trophy room, filled with the heads of stuffed animals, that one might fin in an old Scottish hunting lodge.

Very often such professional head shot organizer come up with appropriate places for faculty to be taken. If you’re a lab scientist – then the setting should be a lab; an art historian then in an art galley; historians belong in archives, librarians in libraries, and the filmmaker should hold a camera and be in a cinema . . . It is as though these spaces somehow stand in for the ecological setting within which the wild specimen might be found by the valiant hunter.

As in a game park, the hunter has no need to actually find that which he (allow the presumption of gender) will shoot as the specimens will line up voluntarily for this virtual trophy taking and mounting.  We march in as lambs to the slaughter giving up our selves for the honour of being professionally mounted to show off to the wall – look a trophy academic.  But in reality, we are not the real trophies, we are simply the back drop against the real trophies parade.  For without the wall of mounted head shots the ‘truly’ brilliant have nothing to shine against.