Passport Photos

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"Passport Photos" photo of a man with a fire next to him.

“Passport Photos” looks at one of the most mundane and unexciting types of photography. Heavily restricted and regulated, the official passport photo requirements include that the subject needs to face the camera straight on, needs a clear background without shadow, no glare on glasses and most importantly; no smile.

It seems almost impossible for any kind of self-expression.

The series tries to challenge these official rules by testing all the things you could be doing while you are taking your official document photo.

I love this weird, wonderful, and truly surreal photography project. Especially in this modern age in which a passport photo does not necessarily involve a photo booth – you’re often permitted now to trim down a conventional photo or even use a born-digital picture snapped from an approved app or via a web application – it’s more-feasible than ever that the cropping of your passport photo does not reflect the reality of the scene around you.

Max’s work takes this well beyond the logical extreme, but there’s a wider message here: a reminder that the way in which any picture is cropped is absolutely an artistic choice which can fundamentally change the message. I remember an amazing illustrative example cropping a photo of some soldiers, in turn inspired I think by a genuine photo from the second world war. Framing and cropping an image is absolutely part of its reinterpretation.

The Queen’s Passport

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Just a quick thought: what does it say on the inside front cover of the Queen‘s passport?

A British passport, with its famous inside text.

Presumably it ought to say:

My Secretary of State requests and requires in my name all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.

Nonetheless, I’ll bet that she doesn’t get as much trouble at passport control as I do, despite the fact that she doesn’t have a surname at all (to be completely accurate, Windsor is the name of her royal house, and is not a surname in the conventional sense). It makes the Passport Office look a little silly to complain about my unusually short name.

Interesting fact about passports: in their current form, they’re a comparatively new invention, but have achieved a rather quick ubiquity in international travel. Historically, the term “port” in their name doesn’t refer, as you’d expect, to sea ports, but instead to the “portes” (gates) of walled cities: most early passports granted the bearer the permission of their lord or monarch to travel between cities in their own country – sea ports and international boundaries were considered fair game for anybody to cross.

It was only really with the outbreak of the First World War that it became a widespread mandate that travelers had passports to cross international borders, as the nations of Europe fought to prevent spies. The Schengen Area – only around 25 years old and hailed as welcome liberalisation of European international transit laws – could actually be likened to a step backwards to a simpler time when citizens movements were not so closely monitored.

A Note From The Passport Office

This morning I received my new passport, following my name change last month. In the envelope with the new passport and the usual collection of leaflets about safe travelling, I found the following compliments slip:

Compliments slip from the passport office

The slip reads:

Mr. Q,

Your passport has now been issued, as requested. I would advise you that due to your unusual surname, you may experience difficulties at Immigration Control when travelling. The Passport Service will take no responsibility for any problems incurred as the change of name is your own personal choice.

Kind regards;

[indecipherable signature]

Kinda cool.

Off To Malawi!

I’m off to Malawi!

I’ve found my bus ticket (stupid train strikes), my passport (stupid immigration laws), my juggling balls (stupid… no, wait… juggling is good)… I guess I’m ready to go.

Contrary to my assumption that my bus would be leaving from the bus station, it’s apparently leaving from Plascrug… which is… somewhere… hmm…

Anyway, y’all, take care, have fun without me, blah blah blah, be thinking of you. Will try to update this blog (or at least phone-in an update that can be appended as a comment) while I’m on the road. And sorry I couldn’t get Product ‘X’ working better than it does before I left.

Hugz & kittenz;