I need to renew my passport, so needed a new photograph with which to apply.
Our local supermarket has one of those photo booths that does digital images for passports and other formal documentation, so I went along this morning and did the deed exactly as instructed. I came home and duly completed my online application, and now it’s all done and dusted I’ve been sitting looking at my strange new photograph staring back at me from the little print-out provided.
There are of course so may rules and regulations around passport photography – no smile, no fancy accessories, no hair covering your face, no careful posing to get your best angle. No camouflage or intrigue allowed, no tactful hints nor graceful subterfuge. In fact no visible individuality or personality required to be shown at all – just a straightforward full-face-on mug-shot that bares your soul in a most disconcerting fashion. Raw reality packing its punches with no holds barred.
In my photograph I look… How best to describe how I look?
Blank, I suppose. Empty of emotion. Just a set of unremarkable features set into a gently ageing female face. Wrinkles showing quite clearly on my forehead, decidedly drooping eyelids and unsightly fleshy pouches gathering under my deepening eye sockets. The high cheekbones of my youth have lost a little of their shapely definition. Thinning mouth beneath a small neat nose, soft rounded chin, wrinkled neck. Greying dark blonde hair sitting with an easy, devil-may-care attitude on my shoulders. I look exactly like the middle-aged woman I am.
I am fifty-seven years old, and in this starkly unapologetic image I see myself as most of the real world probably sees me. Not carefully posed with my standard fake-prepared photo-smile or my preferred pouting-in-the-mirror-face, but instead I see a real reflection of me captured in the raw with resigned, been-round-the-block-a-few-times eyes and a defiant look of focused concentration. A little haggard, maybe, slightly careworn, but nevertheless appearing to carry my almost three-score years with the pride of a battle-scarred badge of honour saying – yes, the life I have lived shows in my face, and what of it?
I am surprised to find I quite like this blank-expressioned image.
She is growing on me, this mature in-my-face me with nowhere to hide. I am reminded of a portrait my mum painted of me fifty years ago. In the painting I am looking directly out of the canvas, straight on. Mum has painted me with my resting face on after hours of sitting still, not with the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t fleeting flash of a smile, and I realise in this new passport photograph I look just the same, but so much older. The association pleases me… the feeling of continuity across the decades, of shared common ground between me then and me now… a kind of visual deja-vu with a difference… 🙂