What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Take a look at this photo. Yes, that’s me, without a hat or sunglasses. I do come from attractive parents; apparently the attractive genes are recessive. But anyhow, look at the photo.

Can you tell me what’s wrong with it?


Yes, it’s a little out of focus and there are shadows. The original doesn’t have those problems. Why are you so picky?

If you said anything like “I don’t like your stupid smirk” or “you’re so old; what’s with the faux-hipster goatee?”, you’re right. Those closest to me might also add that the blank background does not give adequate perspective to let the viewer know how truly large my cranium is.

But put aside my graying hair, crow’s-feet and receding hairline for a moment. What’s really wrong with this picture? Could you look at it, then decide if the man who handed it to you was or was not me? I think so. I can tell you that the guy I see in the mirror every morning looks just like the one in that photograph. Well, except the guy in the morning mirror doesn’t have a shirt on and his hair is standing up.

Maybe I’ll Discuss My Reason For Asking

It’s just time that I had one. (public domain image)

Here’s the deal. I am applying for a passport. How I made it fifty-two years without ever applying for one is another story.

I gathered my paperwork, my birth certificate and this photo and headed off to the post office to submit my application. I expected things a routine experience- go to the counter, sign forms, pay the fees, go home and wait for my passport to arrive. That’s exactly what happened until the moment the clerk finished examining my birth certificate and said “where is your passport photo?” I handed her the photo you looked at.

She looked at it, looked at me, then the photo again. “I don’t know”, she said. I was shocked, because if you were to ask me, I’d tell you that I look just like the guy in that photo and the one on my driver’s license. I gave her my best “are you kidding me?” look.

The clerk walked to her colleague, showed him the photo and said “what do you think?” He shook his head and said “ehhhhhhh…..”.

Now I’m Feeling A Little Hurt

My form was typed. My I.D. matched my birth certificate. My I.D. photo looks just like the one I submitted to go on my passport. So what is there to “ehhhhhh….” about?

I’m feeling a little hurt at this point. The only sensible answer is that I’m on some hidden camera television show where the postal clerks are going to mock my picture for a bit and then the host will pop out of a back room and surprise me. I decide to work on this premise.

“That’s me”, I tell them, “I’ve got a wallet full of identification and a phone full of photos. They all have that same face. Those are the cards I was dealt.” The clerk returns to the counter in front of me and assures me that she knows I am the man who I say that I am but that if I submit my application with this particular photo it will likely be rejected and I will be asked to take and send a new picture. If I want my passport without delay, she tells me, my best bet would be to have a new picture taken.

So, I’m Going To Have A New Picture Made

I’ll return to the post office tomorrow and attempt to get a passport with a new photo.

Now that you know what I am using it for, I’ll ask you to look at my photo again and I’ll ask you what is wrong with that picture?

Before I reveal the answer, let me say that I’m sure there is a good reason for the standards which my photo does not match. I support the importance of the mission of knowing who travels where. And I’m not kidding about this – when I fly, I thank the TSA inspectors. If someone in line hassles a TSA person, I always say that I’m sorry that they had to put up with that kind of thing.

So, State Department, if you’re reading this…love you guys too. Thanks for watching out for us. I’m not kidding about that. Customs Inspectors, that all goes for you too.

I’m sorry that you can’t see enough of my right ear and that my head was tilted too much for this to be a valid passport photo. There are probably reasons that I don’t understand for these strict standards. I’ll try being more level-headed on my next try.

I hope you guys know that this will be the most pressure packed photo of my entire life.


30 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”

  1. You, my good sir, are a handsome man! Maybe your dashing grin was liable to melt right through the passport paper, and that won’t fly with the digitized kind? 😉

  2. Blond_Stranger says:

    I’m pretty sure you’re also not allowed to look happy…or God forbid smile. My passport photo looks like a horrific mug shot.

  3. List of X says:

    You look way too happy getting your passport photo taken.
    (I thought I was joking, but no – you are supposed to have a “neutral facial expression”:

  4. Jeff says:

    Most countries have illustrated pamphlets that give the official specifications for passport photographs. Most of these are about positioning, lighting, size etc. There is also an encapsulated A4 guide that officials who inspect documents keep under counters around the world. Its main criteria are on a) whether someone looks alright for their age, and b) how to make snap judgements of character that could adversely affect someone’s life.

  5. What a great photo of you 🙂 I thought you were going to say that it was because you had a grin on your face because, heaven forbid that we look happy on our passport photos!

  6. shoutabyss says:

    So your head isn’t on straight? BTW, I’m in the same boat as you. About the same age and never a passport. Getting one is on my bucket list. I dedicate this tune to your next photo attempt:

  7. Sandy says:

    My 18 year old son travelled to Europe with a passport picture at age 13 and, trust me, there was very little resemblance !! No questions asked !

  8. Anonymous says:

    As your wife, I know I’m biased. But damn, I’d let you into whatever country you wanted. 🙂

  9. T says:

    Hoping things go right for you…

  10. You are wearing glasses.
    Oh, and you look like Tony Stark.

  11. Betty says:

    I knew exactly what it was the minute I read passport. My friend spent $12 a piece for his two boys and had to go back and pay it again for retakes. But yours is borderline. Not necessarily a smile.

  12. Blogdramedy says:

    They say it’s the journey, not the destination, when it comes to enjoying travel. If your journey is starting out this way, travel is going to be awesome. Right? *grin*

  13. Pie says:

    Ooh, you handsome fella me lad. I agree with your wife… I would’ve let you go anywhere!

    As many people have said here, I was sure it was the smile that got your photo rejected, rather than a tilt of the head or missing ears. Because it’s a crime to look happy in a passport nowadays. I used to take pride in my passport photos, as I knew I had a smile to melt the heart of a brick. Sadly, now we all have to present a neutral face. I would cautiously suggest that most people’s ‘neutral’ face makes them look like a candidate for Interpol’s Most Wanted.

    I’d love to hear the story of why you waited until you were 52 to apply for a passport. Speaking of age, I’m sure your birthday’s coming up soon(ish). I wish you a happy birthday in advance. That’s forward planning for you!

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you in advance! You know, I’m not sure why I’ve waited. Until ’01, you could go from the states to the Carribean with just a birth certificate and a drivers license. I guess I wasn’t going anywhere that wasn’t warm!

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