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My passport photo is worse than yours

by Michael on February 15, 2012

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Who is this guy?

Most people don’t like their passport photo but mine is worse than yours, I guarantee it. It was taken a few years back when I weighed 30 pounds more than I do now, no doubt a result of my ongoing donut fetish. I had more hair but apparently it was combed with a rake. I displayed an odd, gleeful smile, like I was sitting on a massage chair that was set to full vibrate. It was also taken pre-facial hair and many chins ago. All in all, not a pretty picture: literally.

The good news is that I no longer look like this photo. This has become evident as I keep getting pulled out of immigration lines by suspicious customs officers. As we were trying to leave China I was sent to a separate area that I assume is normally reserved for suspected drug mules and arms smugglers.

A higher-ranking official was called over to make some sense out of the apparent disconnect between my passport picture and my actual face. Much discussion took place between the two officers as they focused on my eyebrows, the one feature that was apparently unchanged. I tried to replicate the weird grin in the photo but that only made me look demonic and heightened their sense of suspicion.

A phone call was made with many guttural comments back-and-forth. A third officer came over. All three started rapidly glancing from my passport to my face like spectators at a ping-pong match. The senior officer pantomimed to me to arch my eyebrows, at least that’s what I thought he meant, so I arched away. He took out a pencil and held it up to my eyebrows in an odd attempt to figure out if they were still crooked. (They are.) Trying to clarify the situation I pulled out my driver’s license but unfortunately that looks like a third person altogether.

Current visa photo, maybe not much of an improvement but at least it looks like me.

By now Larissa had gotten used to my immigration shenanigans and moved on to the boarding area, apparently “for better or for sticky customs situations” was not part of our marriage vows. She figured no use both of us spending time in a Chinese prison. The officials finally tired of the situation and let me go, satisfied that I wasn’t a Chinese national trying to leave the country illegally.

This problem has continued throughout the journey. When we enter a country Larissa goes ahead to get the luggage while I lag behind to deal with wary customs officials. Ironically, the only place we didn’t have any problem was in North Korea. They searched every bit of luggage to make sure we didn’t have banned items such as cell phones or newspapers. However, the official seemed satisfied as he carefully scrutinized me and gestured to move on.

My advice is if you don’t look like your passport anymore, get a new one. It will save you headaches down the road. By the way, Larissa has nothing to add to this discussion since she looks cute in her passport picture.

What are some of the worst pictures you’ve ever taken?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara February 15, 2012 at 3:43 am

This is hilarious!
I only had 1 passport pic that I actually liked(I dislike my actual one), because I could smile back then and not have a mug shot.
My cousin’s hubby has a problem not with the pic on the passport but the name. He has the exact same name a most wanted dude!

C’est la vie… try to keep smiling through it all.
Barbara

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Us February 15, 2012 at 4:32 am

Having the same name as someone on the most wanted list would be bad too.

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John Discepoli February 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Between the 2 photo’s it looks like you tried to have a makeover from the kid that gets beat up in the playground to terrorist wanna be. Nice added effect with the black t under the army green.

Can we play “Caption this photo”?

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Us February 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm

If “caption the photo” will make you happy then fire away.

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Motena February 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm

I think i had similar experiences, almost each time between shanghai and Beijing, and Yes when i enter china and when i leave, at some point i was asked if i have another document(an older passport with a picture taken in 2005) to verify that it is me after all, but like you it made matters worse, but i guess the likelihood of having two travel documents, same name, similar pictures was close to zero for the authorities… the difference in my current passport picture was November 2010 (long hair), when it was made, and February 2011(very short and colored hair), since it was a new passport, i think that only made matters worse, no previous visa stamps and so on…

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Us February 15, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Maybe they are just more strict in China. Great hearing from you again Motena.

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Gusto February 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

When delayed at customs in Asia or elsewhere, I suggest resorting to the Obi Wan Kenobi technique (“these aren’t the droids you’re looking for”). Chinese customs had major issues with our bringing some fairly nice bottles of red wine in country as gifts for our customers. I insisted that these wines were fine and not a customs problem at all, just as Obi Wan would. After much fuss and side discussion, they made me wrap it one of those shrink wrap gizmos, but I was able to get the bottles through. Give it a try. And may the force be with you.

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Us February 16, 2012 at 9:59 am

Aren’t you the guy that always gets stopped because you look like a shady character?

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jerry February 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

With that face I wouldn’t let you in my house, let alone my country.

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Us February 16, 2012 at 9:54 pm

With the old face or the new one? Or both?

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Doz & Amanda February 20, 2012 at 5:45 am

That is sound advice but they don’t seem to care if you have only lost your hair! :)

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Us February 20, 2012 at 9:37 am

Unfortunately I’m losing that too.

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Nomadic Samuel February 22, 2012 at 2:17 am

Ha, this was a fun read. I’ve certainly never been satisfied with my passport photo either. My latest makes me look like a dodgy criminal.

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Us February 22, 2012 at 2:58 am

Hi Samuel,
Thanks for checking in. We love your site with the smiling photos and will be submitting a few.
Cheers!
Larissa and Michael

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Bernie McNamee February 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Mike,
I’d stop you too.
Bernie.

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Us February 23, 2012 at 11:41 pm

That’s probably just because you know me so well.

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Bernie McNamee February 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Yo.
I am looking at the visitor map and looks like someone has checked in from, and in the middle of, the world’s biggest desert?
Bernie.

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Us February 23, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Apparently we have a large Bedouin following.

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David July 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm

From personal experience I have to agree not many people like their picture taken. However you can improve the end result with a little preparation.

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Frank November 18, 2015 at 2:11 am

Your current Visa photo looks like one of those mugshots that they usually have on the news when talking about a mass murderer on the loose!
Worst photo was Spanky last year getting photo at Thai consulate in Vientiane. She was pissed off: all these dirty backpackers were fine with their grungy tank tops but when she came up to take a photo they insisted she put on this white shirt that they reserve for people inappropriately dressed (she wasn’t, except for maybe a hint of cleavage, but she can’t help that because she’s got lots of cleavage :) ). Anyway, then they’re telling her to button it to the top button, so it’s really tight against her throat. She was seething and the photo looks like someone who’s about to go on a rampage.
Me, I’m always photogenic so no problem :)
Frank (bbqboy)

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