They are ubiquitous presences staring at one and all from every heap and pile of official and important deemed documents, they are definite modes in identification of one’s very facial features and the entire structure therewith of unique recognition, they are but a not so fancied version of something otherwise immensely universal a pursuit in free will and lifestyle but above it all they are indispensable, necessary and essential constructs in purposefulness across all considerations of a world otherwise differing greatly in every norm and convention of it.
Passport size photographs are what define the dimensions of our existence right after we attain the luxury of that status in possessing a individual identity. Beginning from our very admission into schools and thereafter into colleges to our filing of applications for jobs and exams and every single thing that we seek to do in between, having a set of the specific sized snap of our most authentic appearance in person asserts as a must that we grow to understand the significance and consequence of. And while that patient clicking of the photo itself happens to be quite invalidating an experience in the universal disappointment of how it always turns out seemingly ‘distorted’ to us, so much in our perception of ourselves as in the actual physicality of it that the very notion of a decent, let alone good, passport size photography is the proverbial unicorn representation never for once caring to assert so much as even a distant reality.
For something so integral to our everyday needs of doing and being in the real world, one where the notions of the official and the formal are the ideals to live by in virtually every aspect of dwelling, it is disappointing indeed that passport size photographs absolutely do not entertain any claims of the aesthetics that photography as an art first and foremost embodies and in fact epitomises in all essence of it. Making thus for some of the blatantly realistic depictions of ourselves otherwise residing blissfully ignorant in a version afforded by a looking through the rosy glasses, with no exceptions made whatsoever for anything else other than the sheer ‘truth’ to find rightful acceptance in all standing true to its dignity if that is what one would like to believe in salvaging some attempt at nursing the hurt pride are these humble, no fuss intended, no frills attached frame of the passport size photo that grounds us so impeccably and absolutely without even any attempt at decimating the identity of us for which it in fact stands so distinctively.
That might be the commonplace narrative of what the passport size photo spells for everyone of us. But what is it about this particular size of the photo so essential in pretty much every thing we seek to do that earns it the moniker of the passport size photo? The answer really is quite simple and exactly the one that stands by the first guess one would make of its naming. It indeed is from one of its earliest uses stamped upon passports as officially mandated that these precisely and strictly set dimensions of the photo acquired its identity. Even the essence of it in no frill and flair and all plain and basic is one that entails from this purpose of its dictation. Because passports are basically a validating document in nationality and unique identification beyond also its purpose in making cross border travel possible for the beholder of it, it emerges as quite logical that these papers of supreme importance in authenticating existences themselves should concentrate on the most basic ideas of what unfailingly would serve the intention of it.
Despite all such establishment in what strikes as reasonable indeed grounds of the austere ‘aesthetic’ that passport photos make demand for, the beginnings of what emerged glued upon these documents of tremendous importance after which the photos take in name and meaning hadn’t been so strictly certain about the guidelines to be kept in mind while making a trip to the local studio for that all important purpose in ‘genuine posing’.
Back when they began to be newly needed essentials finding place upon passports, there hadn’t been any clear cut rules in place demanding the exact way and manner in which people needed to ‘be’ in their photos for it to be considered worthy of stamping upon passports. And thus there exist evidence of all sorts of photographs being sported by passports of even really famous personalities and of commoners alike. Interestingly it hadn’t also been just the pose that wasn’t constrained yet by dictates galore in what would occur as proper presentation.
Earlier times also allowed for passport photos to not be exclusive entities of a particular identity. Group photos passed off quite easily therefore as passport photos even as cutouts from other photos accounted well enough for the purpose at hand. Of course, specific settings as to what could be functional enough as backgrounds and locations that tended to be as random as possible saw no discrimination being made against their nature. The only thing that amounted for a validation or rejection of the photo concerned as a case of identity first and foremost depended on the proper visibility and ascertaining of the faces as indeed being alluding to whom it claimed to represent.
And so history has been replete with instances galore in the most unusual photos flashing faces from across passports like the one that Arthur Conan Doyle provided featuring also his wife and two sons or more general citings of say a mother and child posing on the beach even as a young woman posed instead with her guitar to draw upon only a few of the ‘liberties’ that passport photos had still access to. It has been only some years more than that of what makes up a century now that passport sized photographs came to be mandated by rules and regulations in the size, setting, presentation and numerous such elements of their defining.
Far off therefore from the posing in groups and with stuff that reflected one’s interests while taking it upon oneself to smile or grin or frown or laugh as per their current mood and overall disposition not very unlike what would characterise more coveted captures of personal significance, these small but still significantly sized snaps of the present world make for presences across just the bare minimum. Whether that be in manners of expression or in matters of objects not innately characterising of one’s person as well as in the space and setting across which the subject is photographed and also most definitely in the dimensions as specified for official works as a standard norm or differing somewhat and passport sized photos have come to be rooted in rather rigid requirements not particularly appealing both in attending to them and in receiving the outcome of such restrictions.
Today passport photographs are a necessity every where and anywhere one lives or stays. And while there are some uniform modes as to how one should ‘conduct’ oneself when facing the camera for this requisite in no any fun for sure, there still tend to exist certain variations across countries and borders as to the exact specifications of them. The rules are as various as the different purposes that passport photos serve despite their naming out of a singularly governed notion catered through which is a multitude of arrangements all significant foremost in their aim in identification.
And yet despite their ruling large as the entity in which individual verification of people’s profiles is definitely embedded, passports had not been what heralded this novel way in identification. Photo based authentication of humans had its origins instead in a not so officially distinguished need emerging as a ticket granting admission to an exhibition but the definite dawning of its essence sure would not be the defining reality till the time passports too mandated some form of a photo of the person(s) to be stuck upon the document. And that is what justifies largely this logical way in identifying and authenticating the uniqueness of the individual as part of a security measure and a validifying process being summed up within that assertion of what commands all importance as the passport size(d) photograph just about anywhere on earth.