Passport Photos

Left or right shoulder in front, which one do you like better?

“You need a passport to go to Canada.” Tim is reminding me that my passport expires this year and we have out-of-the-country travel plans. Canada to be exact. Bringing the point home, he adds, “It’s hard to say how long it will take to renew.” Not quite finished, he continues, “It’s not like it used to be.”  I’m not sure if this is a reference to my forgetfulness or a reference to the political state-of-affairs with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. But I’m absolutely sure that he will remind me again and again until I renew my passport. So, as my mother always said, illu bestu aflokid, I decided to reorganize my To-Do list putting renew passport in number uno spot. Now if I can only remember where I keep the To-Do list, on Alexa, iPhone, iCloud, or under the clear plastic on my desk.

Deciding not to over-prepare for the photo, I go to the local UPS store wearing what I have on, light blue t-shirt and a red sweatshirt. The muted light in the bathroom reflects a pleasing image. Perhaps bigger earrings will add some sparkle, but in the end, I choose large pearls. I bring out my eyebrows (It’s how the Sephora girl phrased it) with a brown pencil and put on a light pink lipstick. Clinique named it extreme pink which is inaccurate. Not even close, in fact, it’s pale pink. More importantly, I hope Clinique’s response when I wrote to ask them about led in their lipstick was accurate. So, where was I? Oh, yes, passport photo.

Adam at the UPS store says for me to look right into his hand-held camera. “Look indifferent,” he says ten inches from my face. After cutting the two photos to size, putting them into a folder the size of a passport, he tells me not to put anything heavy on top of them for a couple of minutes. Instead of looking at them right away, which is my usual inclination, I wait until I get into the car. I should have waited longer. Better yet, I should have sat on them.

Looking at what’s supposed to be me, my appreciation of my driver’s license photo taken last month goes through the sunroof. Is this really how I look to others? I wouldn’t want to meet myself in an alley or on a moonless night. Heck, I’d not even want to see me on a city street in full sunlight. Is it possible that I look this way? My youngest grandchild, Astrid, is two-years-old. She is not afraid of me. She doesn’t run crying to her parents. I wonder if they prep her before I visit. Is a trip to Canada worth it? Technology using fingerprints or pupil detection can’t get here fast enough.  

Someone blows the horn wanting my parking spot. They will just have to wait. This is a crisis moment, and I need time to sort it out.  Not even sure if I should be driving in this emotional state. 

The photo is a mirror image. The mole above my left lip is on the right side in the passport photo. My hair is parted on the wrong side of my face, and the curvier eyebrow is also on the wrong side. In family photos or group shots, my picture is always the worst. Others disagree and whine, no way, look at my picture if you want to see awful. Wrong. It looks just like them.

It is a slight consolation that this reaction, I look terrible, is not uncommon. Portrait photographers say that 90% of us are unhappy with our photo image. Couldn’t find ages associated with this discontent. We can rule out young children and brides. Yes, I’m ten years older than I was last time I renewed my passport, but that’s not it.  I’m not fussing about the wrinkles and sunken eyes. I just want it to look how I look when I see myself in the mirror, fewer lines and thicker hair.  

One possible explanation is that our photos are a mirror image. Take Mona Lisa.  Show her as we are accustom to,  with her left shoulder in front or flip her putting the right shoulder in front she looks different. According to an internet source, nine of ten people like the picture with the left shoulder in front, the famous painting image, better. Even though it’s the same photo. I agree.  

Perhaps this explains why most of us don’t like our own picture. Even so, ten years hence, let’s hope there is an alternative to passport photos.

One thought on “Passport Photos

Comments are closed.