Monday, January 28, 2013


LUCY BURDETTE: I've had a very stressful month with my identification papers. First I had to get a new drivers license photo. Which came out passable. I do understand that the last one was taken seven years ago and changes have ensued. I could live with that.

But then my passport was due to expire. Aside from waiting in the line at the Post Office endlessly, the worst part of this process was, again, a new photo. I trotted down to a nearby CVS and asked the clerk if they took passport photos. She giggled with delight and pulled out an instant camera. This would be her very first time taking a passport photo. (I should also mention that it was the second day after I had a haircut with a new hair stylist. If you're like me, you know that your hair almost always looks amazing coming right out of the salon. The second day, not so much.) 

So back to the story. The woman took the picture and was very excited about the result. To my practiced eye, it looked more like a Most Wanted mug shot than the photo of a nice lady you'd enjoy having visiting your country.

Lucy: I can't send this picture in.

Lucy's husband: It's cute. It looks like you.

Lucy: I'd rather never travel again than use that photo.

Lucy's husband: It's fine. Don't be vain.

He struck a nerve. So I waited for a week to see if time would heal all wounds. Nope. Then I peddled my bike across town to the other CVS and started over again. The result is not the most gorgeous shot ever taken, but it looks more like me.

How about you Reds? Any photo horror stories?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Me? You're asking ME? The princess of particular?

I had a passport photo taken once in the CVS, big mistake.  I started griping that the clerk had me stand directly under a light, which is a disaster. (Look up before you get a photo taken, sisters, and make sure there's not a only downlight on you.) Plus, it was green. So *that* passport photo is in the pocket of the backseat of our car, which is where it will stay.

I got a better one taken. Not a glam or even flattering one, that's impossible, I guess. But not hideous.
But it's so hilarious--when I travel, sometimes I wear my glasses, not contacts. And not always make-up. So I love it when the  TSA guy looks at my passport photo, then at me, then at the photo, then shrugs and hands it back. Like--if you say so, ma'am.

Here's a photo of me at age 6 or so.
Things have gotten better since then, I guess.

LUCY: Ha, ha Hank. I knew you'd have something to say on this topic! Are you sure you won't dig that photo out of the backseat pocket and let us have a look?? The six-year-old photo is adorable!

HALLIE EPHRON: I look at those passport pictures taken decades ago that I HATED back then and now I think: pretty cute!
Youth is so wasted on the youthful. This passport picture was taken just before I graduated college.

In my last passport photo I look just like Whitey Bulger -- not Catherine Greig, Whitey. And I'm not sharing it. I know, I know, people say he looks pretty good for his age.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Well, my passport pic was taken seven years ago so compared to what it would look like if taken this morning, it's not so bad. My driver's license, on the other hand - grotesque. And the lighting at CT MVB made me look like Morticia Addams. The worst are the quickie shots for visas. I took one once that was so bad the photographer actually said "let's take another, dear." Most annoying is that husband Bruce has never taken a bad photo.
RHYS BOWEN: If you think the US passport pix are bad, then you should see the English ones. You are not allowed to smile. It has to be full face, square on, hair back from forehead. I truly expected to have my prison inmate number directly beneath it. Drivers license for some reason always looks pretty good.

LUCY: my gosh, Rhys, why on earth won't they let you smile?? You are so much more beautiful than that photo...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My worst passport photo is a group shot from my childhood, back in the day when kids traveled on their parents' passport. I was six or seven, with a wild thicket of hair, an eye patch (there to correct my amblyopia) and my two front teeth missing. My younger sister's blond curls for some reason exploded to mad scientist height, and she's wearing overalls which, in the black and white picture, look like garb issued by the Soviet Toddler's Collectivist. My usually composed and chic mother has the strained look often seen in POW videos, probably due to the efforts of getting two overactive girls through the passport process. The overall effect is that of a family of Moldovian refugees fleeing the destruction of their village.

I also want to know why you can't smile in the UK passports. Still trying to convince the rest of the world it's all stiff upper lip?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Lucy, still chuckling. I have to have my driver's license renewed this year, and am not looking forward to it. And what about our Costco or Sam's cards ID photos? I am not posting my Costco ID!
My current passport picture is surprisingly not bad, so I went digging in the file for the old passports. OMG, the 1989 photo, when I had the really short hair with the really curly perm???? What was I thinking? And no, I'm not posting that one, either. But I found my first passport. It's certainly not flattering (again, what was with the hair?) and I don't know why I'm doing the "covering up bad teeth" smile, but there is a certain nostalgic charm to it. And then, on the second page, I found the stamp from my first ever trip to England. That I have to include, and a photocopy is going in my Iona journal.
But it just goes to show that I, at least, can't depend on memory. I've told the story for years about flying into Gatwick that first time and seeing the Surrey countryside. The passport is stamped Heathrow.

LUCY: There you go reds, aren't we some good sports? How about you, any photo horror stories to start the week off with a good laugh?


  1. Worst picture? As far as I’m concerned, they’re all, without exception, horrible . . . . My standard photograph routine is to look at it, say “Yuck!” and hide it away, never again to see the light of day. I absolutely despise having my picture taken and generally cringe when I see photographs of myself. Of course, that doesn’t count those photos from when I was really young and photographs of twins were cute just because they were twins . . . who wouldn’t love a photograph of two little girls smiling for the camera while they were clutching cookies in their hands?

  2. On a cruise with the wife, feeling happy and playful after two martinis (Was it three?) at the cocktail party, we posed for a photo entering the dining room. There's a big smile on my face and a certain swishy-ness to the hip, ankle, and toe. Not to disparage anyone's sexual preference, but I'm not gay and I wish my wife didn't keep the picture out for laughs.

    It takes a real man to tell this story. :)

  3. Thank you, Reds. I needed a huge good laugh. Mine doesn't seem bad at all, now. My worst photo is my first communion picture all dressed up on a mini bridal outfit, complete with veil. Whoever thought up that little part of the ritual! Worse than the veil and tiara, though are my half-inch bangs. Mum trimmed them and -- well, let's just say she'd had one more than she ought to have had. They were crooked to the left. She trimmed again. They were crooked to the right. She trimmed again. Back and forth. Side to side. Me and the hoot bangs Jesus bride.

  4. Hallie, wow what a glamour puss! Fellow Reds, so brave of you to post those pix - you're all so much cuter.
    And Jack...we may need to see that pic!

  5. So here's why they don't want you smiling and many US states have adopted the same practice:

    The less sophisticated biometric/facial recognition software can't do the majority analysis points around your mouth, nose and eyes (which crinkle and tip up when you smile) and so they can't scan you as well.

    Since you're usually not smiling while going through security at airports or being pulled over or committing crimes where cameras can catch you it's easier to compare.

  6. Wow! You guys deserve the gold Star for Bravery to open those photos to the blogosphere! I have a few that make me look like the original serial killer on death row! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  7. My worst passport photo, some years ago, shocked me because I'd chosed to go to the photographer that day because I thought my hair was looking pretty good. When I saw the picture, I nearly choked. I LOOK LIKE THAT? ON A GOOD DAY? I realised I was in denial about my own looks.

    When I got home, still in shock, I glanced at the front page of the paper and found there was at least one other person who looked just as awful as I did. Martha Stewart, being taken off to prison.

  8. No horror stories from me, but yeah, those ID photos can really suck big ones. I think I had one really good ID photo in my life so far, and it was my driver's license photo taken years ago. When I was blonde. And younger looking. I'm going to hate to give up that photo when the day comes. Sigh.

  9. You know it, Jack! :-)

    Hank, you were adorable! Rhys, you still had a smile in your lovely eyes.

    Everyone looks better with a smile, and everyone looks worse if they are trying to talk when the camera snaps. Which people who hate having their picture taken so often do: My mother used to always be saying, "I always look ugly", and so she did, because her mouth was contorted around those words. Or when protesting, one's face looks worried or upset.

    The key is to relax and smile. My own photos improved dramatically when I figured that out. But I also had to stop obsessing over photos.

    In the case of the British passport photo, ye gods. I understand the rationale, but that's just so unfair.

    I was in line at the Miami airport once behind a youngish man with spiked, platinum hair, wild glasses, and crazy earrings. It was not too long after they tightened airport security, and he showed me his drivers license, which had clearly been taken before he came out. It looked nothing like him and he was freaking out a little. But as often as women color their hair and change their looks, I guess security personnel is ready for that scenario.

    Just think how different IDs for Demi Moore, Jessica Lange, and some other radically altered humans must be. Yikes.

  10. I know, Thelma and ro, aren't we brave??

    Reine: the hoot bangs Jesus bride--that takes the cake! But why is it that all of us as kids had crooked bangs--in every shot??

    Jack, maybe you should use that as your author photo when the time comes...

    My photographer friends have 2 bits of advice--take lots and lots of pix, one is bound to turn out. and best lighting is late in the day...

  11. I was the only one who dared to be brutally honest, you guys! Next time I'll post my Miss World picture instead!

  12. Oh, too funny! My last passport pic was taken at a photo shop and was horrible. That downlight thing. Really disgusting. And then the clerk said "well, it looks just like you." (And no doubt the photo shop owners wonder why business tanked and they had to close ... .) So I went to AAA where they take really nice pics for members at no charge, and if you don't like it, they'll redo it. Will never go anywhere else.

  13. My one and only passport photo was taken about thirty-six years ago around an hour and a half after I found out that a friend had died suddenly the night before. My eyes were puffy and red from crying.

    I've actually liked my last couple of driver license photos. I'm due to renew this year within the next few weeks. I still have the shirt I wore for my last one six years ago, and I'm thinking of wearing it again because the color makes pale-faced me look alive.

    There are two memorable driver license photos, though: one was taken when I was recovering from a nasty sinus infection and I looked paler than usual. (Remember that, okay?) I lucked out when I went to DMV because there was only one other person there. No waiting. When the photos were ready, the clerk came out to the waiting area and kept looking from the photos in her hand to me and the other person, and back again. I am not exactly sure why she didn't seem to know which was which; the only resemblance between the two of us was that we were probably the same age: the person waiting with me was an African-Amercan man.

    Another time when my picture was taken after I'd been waiting in line about an hour, I was told that the camera broke, and I needed to have my picture taken again. Yep: my face apparently broke the camera! They were kind enough to push me to the head of the line at the other camera. And they ended up taking a pretty decent picture.

    And I nearly forgot: my hair was prematurely white. (I really did not like getting senior discounts in my thirties and forties.) Through the miracle of science, it has been a totally different color for the past twenty-one years. The color "changed" around a month after I renewed my license. I was paying for something by check at a store and had to show my license. The elderly clerk looked at my license and said "oh, dear! THIS lady does not look like you. SHE has white hair!" And then she said "miracles do happen, don't they?" and rang up my purchase.

  14. My photos always look like they were taken in booking at the police station. And I have to get a new drivers license this year, and new passport next year. My husband travels a lot for business and got new passport pictures. He said they were awful and got another set elsewhere. I saw his new passport, and if THAT was the good picture I'd love to see the bad one!

  15. Hallie, you and I looked a lot alike. Amazing. Let me see if I can find a photo..

    And whose idea was it to have post offices do passports?? It's the MOST inefficient..

  16. Such a good line, Lucy, about seven years having passed and "changes have ensued." Ha!

    And Jack, you are right, it does take a real man to tell that story and and even realer man to share the photo ...

    But Reine takes today's cake with her tale of the First Communion pix with crooked bangs poking out from under the veil.

    Reminds me of the time I used one of those only-on-TV gadgets called a Trim-Comb on myself. I was about eight. Needless to say the hairdresser who was enlisted to repair the damage didn't have much to work with. It was the pixie of all pixies!

    As for passports, driver's licenses and other photo ID, when the perky gal at CVS or grumpy guy at the DMV orders me to smile, I have a moment of panic and that is what they capture on my face.

    Two licenses ago was the worst - I looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights for seven long years until that baby expired.

  17. Don't even talk to me about photographs. I don't take good photos, never have. Film/video is worse. On the other hand, I have a great voice for radio and recording, but unfortunately, everyone wants to videotape everything now. Ouch!

    My worst drivers license photo was taken when I was sick with CMV (cytomegalovirus). My lymph nodes in the jaw and neck were so swollen that I looked like a very sick bulldog. And my eyes both looked as if I'd been in a fight and gotten the worst of it. i was so happy when the third year came along and I was able to get it replaced.

    Reine, I too have photos of little Linda with hacked bangs, some drifting downhill, some snaggletoothed, and once almost completely trimmed away into my always-giant forehead. It sucks to have parents who are heavy drinkers.

    Nothing's worse than the time when I was interviewed by our local Fox television station. I was the director of the UMKC Women's Center, and they came to the center and we did the interview against the backdrop of built-in bookcases in our library. I wore a red suit and make-up at the insistence of a board member who was a television personality. The interviewer asked great, thoughtful questions about censorship and pornography and feminism for almost an hour. On the air that night, they showed what was essentially a five-seven minute infomercial for pornography makers, an excuse for some reporter to take a junket to Las Vegas to a pornmaker's convention. All they took from my carefully phrased and reasoned interview was a snippet (right after I said I didn't favor censorship) in which I said violent pornography and child pornography were different and society had a right and responsibility to control them.

    I was the only woman over thirty and the only woman who was fully clothed in the whole segment, which was full of T&A. What a set-up! And the spot was so popular--probably from all the T&A--that they rebroadcast it months later.

  18. My first passport photo (in 1969)was taken at the county jail. Seriously! It was a mug shopt without the numbers. LOL My father was friends with the sheriff so he offered to take the pic. It is really bad. I was still in high school and had gone there right from school so I'm wearing my Catholic school white blouse with peter pan collar. BAD BAD BAD.

    My current passport and license photos were taken when I was 247 pounds heavier. I KNOW I need new ones. Before I went to Taiwan a year or so ago I actually called the passport office to see if I really needed a new one before I traveled. I was told that customs and immigration people are experts at overlooking changes in people's faces. He said that since the passports are good for 10 years, many people change in that time frame. I did have to pull out my license coming back through LAX but that picture wasn't any closer to the current me.

    You are all so brave for posting those glamor shots. :-)

  19. Reine, you crack me up. My "Jesus bride" photo is the same: lace dress and veil (no tiara, alas, but sweet little gloves), but my bangs are curled up like sausages. And so are my little sister's, who was also dressed up.

    My mother really, really wanted Shirley Temple for her daughters. She was so disappointed that she got us, instead. LOL

  20. My *ahem* photos of shame are primarily in the Fort Worth Star Telegram's archives. For years, my coworkers' favorite jokes were about the notorious "butt" shots. Seems like every photo published in the paper of me at a scene response was of my hiney. Even our local firefighters would tease me about it. So ladies, uneven bangs, sausage curls, it could be worse. You could, to quote one of my fellow flight medics, have the "most recognizable ass in Fort Worth." (Of course, there were some who paraphrased that quote.)

  21. You've probably all seen Hank's author photo where she's wearing a black leather jacket and white shirt. I tried to emulate that look for my author photo. I looked like a convict. Then my daughter convinced me what i really needed was an action shot. She made me run through the leaves on the lawn and I ended up with a shot in which it appears that I only have one leg.

    I also have a childhood photo of myself after my mother gave me a Toni home perm. I look like the missing member of the Jackson Five.

  22. I never worry so much about how I looked in the old photos, but how I dressed? Oh, my dears! Our faces may remain eternally interesting, if not outright beautiful, but the things we choose to wear are just not what we want to go to sleep remembering.

  23. Oh I'm guys are hysterical today--thanks!

    Rhys, I put my horror picture up too. (go back and look at the one on the left...)

    but some other Reds owe us pix for another day!!

  24. I loved this post. Hysterical. My passport pic is actually really good. I told the guy he should think of becoming a photographer. He took it seriously.

    Worst photo ever? My sister and I howl at the pic of us when we were 3 and 6. Our poor mother cut our hair, including the bangs. Tried to get the bangs straight across. Then tried again. And again. We both have 1/4" of hair sprouting from the tops of our foreheads. And no, I'm not posting it.

  25. Thanks for the takes-the-cake votes, but I think Linda's pornfomercial wins.


  26. When I posted earlier I didn't mention that I hated having my picture taken when I was a youngster; in many photos I am frowning because I just wanted to get it OVER with. Even as an adult it took me many years to stop being self-conscious about it. I especially hate photos taken of me when I was in my late twenties and into my early fifties. You know it's bad when you're showing family photos to people who have only known you for the past ten years and they ask "why aren't you in any of these? Were you the one taking the pictures?" and you point to yourself in each of the pictures, and your friends say "oh". (I did not mention my short VERY curly white-haired perms, did I?) I changed the color and eventually got rid of the perms...which I never even liked...lost some weight, and started to feel a little less self-conscious.

    When I was in my twenties, my dad started putting together a collage of family photos. I hated one that he picked from when I was around twelve years old. He protested that it was one of his favorite pictures of me, that he thought of that picture whenever he thought of me and kept it in. A couple of years ago I looked at it of my sisters has that collage now..and realized that I like it now, too, and I think I know why my dad liked it: he took it at a family picnic, and called out to me to "look up and smile". I was stretched out on a chaise and I looked up from a book I was reading (and actually smiled). That was me: book in hand wherever I went, and my parents were proud to have kids who loved to read.

  27. I love the line about you'd rather never travel again than use THAT photo. I have to say the posted photo doesn't look that much like you to me -- 'cause I'm used to you animated and darling, not frozen by a camera. I didn't realize anyone would actually reveal their passport or driver's license photo--I'm impressed. But I'm not gonna. Plus I wouldn't know how to.

  28. My last passport photo was taken soon after I'd cut my fringe myself - too short and of course uneven. I was in a hurry so I didn't have time for an emergency salon visit and re-shoot, or believe me, I would have done that. The passport expires soon, thank heaven.

    You guys are brave. I can hardly stand to show this photo to passport control.

  29. You can't smile in Canadian passport photos, either.

  30. I'm in Fla and they let you renew your license x times by mail then you have to get new photo. Ack! Somehow my hair had disappeared, my lips were a line, and my face looked like a balloon!