My passport expired recently. I was devastated. I loved my passport. With each passing year I loved it more. As birthdays came and went and I got a year older my passport photo preserved my face in the year 2000.

So with a trip abroad on the horizon it was time to apply for a new document which would encourage foreign governments to be nice to me and would confirm me as a citizen of Ireland. The latter being a somewhat difference experience now than it was in ‘brink of boom’ 2000. I am not sure how enthusiastic I will be to brandish my proof of belonging to a bailed out, banjaxed and bankrupt little republic in Northern Europe… but I digress.

Off to the Garda station for the forms, which I fill out in my best handwriting with my favourite pen. Simple enough. Then for the photo.

This should also be a relatively simple exercise. I am, after all, married to a photographer. Therefore I don’t have to trudge to my nearest shopping centre, to sit in a caboosh clutching hairbrush and lipstick and attempt to undo the windblown hair and smudged lips. Oh no, I can have my photo done in the comfort of my own home, standing against the ‘Summer Solstice’ painted wall in the natural light of the big window, something which the photographer assures me is very flattering.

Freshly made up, hair brushed, I’m all ready.

“Remember you are not allowed to smile anymore” says the photographer. I had forgotten that bit. Ok, I think, I will do my intelligent look. A look I like to adopt when attempting to contribute to conversations about bond markets, subprime loans and the like. I have always felt it worked quite well.

Click, click, click, click…… about twenty images taken and off I go to inspect the work through the back of the camera.

I am horrified. “Jaysus” I roar at my long suffering photographer husband, “they’re brutal.”

I don’t just look sad, I look gutted. Like a woman who has just learned of some awful tragedy that has befallen all her nearest and dearest. “I’m not going around the world with a photo like that. Jaysus. Again.” And so he picks up the camera and I head back to the Summer Solstice, my mind working overtime.

Maybe I will try enigmatic, I think. Mysterious. Surely I could do that without smiling. So I stand willing the soft daylight to work its magic and opening my eyes just a little wider than normal in the hope of softening some of my ‘laughter lines’. Chins up.
Click, click, click…. And back to the camera I go.

“Oh my God”. Not only sad but now quite mad too. Like a killer’s mugshot. Only worse.

I decide I don’t want a bloody passport. I probably won’t ever be able to afford holidays again anyway after the budget. I curse the bloody Americans for deciding that it would be a safer world if the travelling public didn’t smile in their passport photos. My photos would give any self respecting terrorist a good run for their money.

I try to calm down. The photographer nervously asks if I want to try again.

I’m out of ideas, except for praying for divine intervention. So like a prisoner about to be executed I position myself in front of the cream wall again and try to think positive thoughts.
Click, click, click……

“Ok, I now have almost 100 frames. We need to choose one.” Roughly translated that means, I am finished photographing you now, my neurotic wife.

I am close to tears. For the next ten years, I shall be accompanied on my travels by a photo that not only reminds me of how gravity and time have conspired to pull my face south which ensures that when ‘resting’ my face wears an expression of huge sadness.

“Maybe if I lay on the bed and you stood above me with the camera……”
But the photographer has disappeared and the door to his office is closed. He is making my print.

Oh God! Do you think that by the year 2020 I will look back on this photo and think how great I looked? How sad will I be then?

And I apologise for the lack of photo to go with this post…… I don’t need to explain why, do I?

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Writing and Talking.... on the radio, on the telly and in the papers.

11 thoughts on “CHINS UP – KEEP SMILING”

  1. Mona Lisa makes it look easy.

    I feel for you. I hate having my picture taken, even more as the years ravage my face. Every time I try to look serious or even smoldering, I get angry.

    Smiles lift our faces up, so it's cruel not to let have a slight one.

    That said, I'm sure you're being way too hard on yourself.

  2. I don't think I've ever seen a passport photo where people didn't look something like a grumpy terrorist. Maybe you can console yourself with that! xx

  3. As someone who *hates* being photographed,I empathise, Barbara. But I'm sure you don't look that bad in your photo.

    And I know for a fact that you only have one chin.


  4. I sympathise: I had my passport photo done today too! In the UK, it's not just about not smiling but you can't have any hair covering any of your face: who looks good with their hair scraped back! And no nice background, either, it must be cream or grey. SO flattering. And being very pale, I've been known to overexpose photo booth pictures before, so I piled on the slap and went to a local photographer. Result? Well…at least I don't look like a ghost. I do, however, look like a serial killer.

    Imagine if people actually walked around looking like their passport photos? It'd be like the night of the living dead!

  5. yes but Barbara…when the next time comes for a renewal I'll bet you will look in fondness on this one!

    Did you ssk him to stand on a chair? It gives instant cheekbones! Don't give up till you get one you like! 🙂

  6. Whatever about how the photo turned out…thank you for so eloquently and elegantly expressing what we've all gone through (although not necessarily in the comfort of our own homes ;))

  7. Oh Barbara, I loved this! and I do sympathise. 🙂

    I thought …
    “Maybe if I lay on the bed and you stood above me with the camera……” was a stroke of genius. LOL

    Thanks for making me laugh!

  8. God be with the days of a nice colour passphoto with a smiley face and as in my case in the late 90s a head of permed curls that still haunt me well past their sell-by date – thank god I'm due a renewal next year – but now I dread the dull b/w grumpy chins up pic! Laughed at your post, hilarious and I can agree, posed photos at my age are not funny!

  9. Oh Barbara I know exactly what you mean. I hate the thought of a new passport and driving license. The no smiling thing is just ridiculous too! What a smile so alters the face no-one recognizes you??? Having said that and totally commiserating with you…your tale still made me chuckle. Thank you for that.

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