A self-indulgent look at the avatars I’ve used on WordPress

I was surprised that a couple of you noticed when I changed my WordPress avatar recently. I really liked my old avatar. I thought it made me look tough — tougher than I am, really. Here it is, almost as big as life.


There’s a story behind that avatar. My sons and I were out on our 2013 Spring Break tour of Route 66, and we’d reached the ghost town of Spencer, Missouri. It’s on a great 1928 concrete segment of the road, just beyond a metal truss bridge. A restored gas station stands there. I wrote about it here.

I wasn’t sure I was going to remember exactly where this was, so I whipped out my iPhone to take a shot, which would grab geolocation. But my phone was set to video mode on the front camera. I shot two seconds of myself before I figured it out. I was not amused.

I paused the video at a good moment, took a screen shot, converted it to black and white, cropped it, and there it was: my new avatar. I used it on Facebook, too, and when it went live it got a huge positive response. So I kept it for a long time.

There’s also a story about why I dropped it. Recently I was in an email conversation with a well-known blogger whom I have followed for years. To make a long story short, she said that my avatar’s mean look didn’t jibe with the personality I showed when I commented on her posts. So I switched to my current avatar photo. “Much better,” she said.

Since I’ve waded into the pool of self-indulgence in this post, I might as well swim out all the way. Here are all the photos I’ve used as avatars here at Down the Road.

This photo is from when the blog was new: 2007. I still rocked my long hair then. My older son, then in the fourth grade, asked me to go along on a school field trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He took this shot of me with my camera. What you see in my eyes is me enjoying my son.

100_0942 proc2_LUCiD

I took this unintentional selfie at the Mecum Spring Classic old-car auction in 2009. I’d never heard of the Mecum before, but had won tickets in a radio-station contest. I’ve gone every year since. This Oldsmobile was black, but when I squatted to capture this badge, the finish acted as a mirror.

67 Olds Delmont 88 1

My friend Alice gave me an Olympus OM-1 that had belonged to her father. When I shot a test roll with it, I took this intentional selfie in my car’s side mirror.


I had loaded Kodak E100G slide film into my Kodak Monitor, an old folding camera with a wonderful lens. Its shutter is fussy. You have to press the button firmly, and even then it doesn’t always fire. Once when it didn’t fire, I looked down into the lens — and then the shutter fired in delayed reaction, giving me this. So glad it’s not in focus so you can’t really see into my nose.

002_2A proc

Finally, here’s the photo from which I took my current avatar. Margaret and I were on a photo walk through the huge, awesome Crown Hill Cemetery here in Indianapolis during the autumn of 2014. I was carrying my Nikon N2000 and she was using one of my film cameras, too, probably my Minolta XG 1.

Crown Hill 11-10-14

I’m a pretty serious fellow and I don’t smile easily. But I smile all the time when I’m with Margaret.


17 responses to “A self-indulgent look at the avatars I’ve used on WordPress”

  1. Sam Avatar

    The Olympus shot looks almost like a commercial! Cool shot! :-)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It did work out!

  2. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    And the mysteries of life open themselves one by one. :)
    I remember well my reaction when I first saw your “guy with shades” avatar. “This dude means business” was the thought.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well, I do mean business!!!!!

  3. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    I wonder what percentage of camera collectors have an out of focus up the nose self portrait? Pretty sure mine was taken with an Argus A.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have more than one. I got this one from my Olympus Stylus last year.


  4. ambaker49 Avatar

    Ahhh the days of long hair. Ahhh the days of hair period. Good to see Margaret brought your smile back. You wear it well.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I miss long hair, but not how much extra care it required!

  5. hmunro Avatar

    Oh, make no mistake, Jim: You’re tough, alright — and resilient. But as much as I may have liked your old avatar, I like the new one even better because you just seem so darned *happy.* (And that makes me happy, too.)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh, I know you’re right, after all I’ve worked through in my life nobody can say I’m not strong. But what I mean is I’m not tough in the stereotypical way men are supposed to be, at least as the action movies portray us.

  6. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    The old one does make you look tough…and for lack of a better word, cool! I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but every now I look at a picture of you and I think you look

    1. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

      Crap, dunno what happened there.

      I was going to say I think you look like a young Sam Shepard.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wow, I could do worse! I’ve also been told I resemble Steve Perry and also some Mexican singer I’d never heard of.

  7. Gerald Avatar

    I also thought that the ‘Blues Brothers’ one didn’t gel with the image I had of you in my mind. It’s not that I don’t think you’re cool – it’s more that I imagine you don’t care whether or not you are perceived as cool. And of course, being a nice guy is the ultimate in cool IMO. But I suppose when you don’t know everything about someone your mind does fill in the gaps. I do like how you drip-feed things about yourself; one has to pay attention. Ultimately I’m very happy that there’s a very good reason that the latest avatar is a smiley one. I remain a romantic in spite of my own experience!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Heh, I gave up on caring whether people thought I was cool 30 years ago. Because I realized I was never going to be. Too socially awkward; too interested in esoterica. And thanks to the Internet, I can find those who share my arcane interests, and behind a keyboard nobody knows how socially skilled I am, or am not.

      And yeah, one has to pay attention — that’s on purpose.

  8. Dawn Avatar

    “I am not amused” is still my fav. I like it all the more now that I know the video story behind it. ;-)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Two seconds of me grunting in displeasure! I love that little video.

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