Book covers, whether they contain photographs or illustrations, ask you to look at what you see, know it is fiction, and believe it anyway. This sounds like it makes no sense, but stay with me for a moment; hopefully my train of thought will reveal itself.
Take this cover of Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha:
The cover is, first and foremost, designed to catch a consumer’s attention, say “Look at me!”, and get the consumer to consider purchasing it. I also think that, in asking you to look at it, the book admits to being a fiction.
Intellectually, we know that almost all book covers are staged, commissioned, posed, fake. It’s part of the publishing business and money is the goal. However, especially in this case, the cover admits to being fake. It is the cover of a fictional story, and that alone tells you that the cover cannot host a picture of the real protagonist.
In a way, though, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t a biography or autobiography. The cover isn’t asking us to believe it to be real. It is just asking us to believe.
Morris tells us that what we see in photos is affected by what we believe we’re seeing. I think, by being the cover of a fiction title, this photo is asking us to leave reality for a moment and believe, not that the person in the photo is the book’s character, but that it could be.
I don’t know if this thought process makes any sense beyond the scattered realm of my mind, but I’d love to hear what other people think of posed photographed book covers’ believe-ability. Happy reading!