Yesterday I finally got around to organising new passport photographs for John. I’ve been putting it off for various reasons, the main one being that the rules around what is and isn’t acceptable in a child’s passport photograph are beyond exasperating. I’m instinctively suspicious of rules, particularly if I think the rules are stupid and these ones strike me as the very definition of asinine. The picture we used for John’s first passport, 10 years ago was taken when he was a couple of hours old. That same picture would probably be rejected today because a small amount of blanket is covering his cheek. I just can’t, on any level, get my head around that. I mean, look at it – I’m his mother and I couldn’t swear to that picture being the same child as the one in his passport five years later! To be brutally honest, I doubt it would be obvious to most people looking at it that the baby in the first picture is definitely a boy. He travelled extensively between the ages of 1 and 5, all the time with that picture on his passport. And we are worried about the blanket.
Britain is not alone in this madness, I checked a few other passport agencies and many other countries have similar requirements. Some go even further requiring that newborns have their eyes open for example, for passports in Australia or New Zealand. Why? All three of my kids have different colour eyes today than the colour they were born with, so why is it essential for the passport officer to be able to see the eyes of the baby in their passport photograph – is it to prove that they have eyes?!
By the time John’s first passport needed renewing, the rules about a neutral expression had come into being. You try telling a five year old not to smile right before they have their picture taken and this is what happens – far from a natural or even neutral expression, what you get looks more like a boy in the throws of a stroke as the muscles on one half of his face conform to the rules better than those on the other!
So off we went yesterday to get the new mugshots, except ironically you can actually smile for a criminal mugshot if you so choose, it’s just the passport agency that requires you to look miserable. Apparently, it is because the facial recognition software used in keeping us all secure in the airports works better if you are not smiling in your photograph. Seriously. So to clarify that, we must show our eyes but we must not show our teeth.
You couldn’t make it up.