Recently we had to send away our old and tattered driving licences for address changes requiring us to provide photographs.
Having found a photo booth, and enough change to feed it, we set about trying to work out how to get the best from this most cruel piece of modern machinery. I am not sure what it is about them but they seem to bring out panic in nearly everyone. You respond as if you are about to capture a piece of your very soul and not just a convenient picture.
Steeling ourselves we spun the seat to the required height and read the instructions. My wife had volunteered to go first and you would think that would be the end of the story. Impatient to get on with other more important things I attempted to put sterling into the slot but my wife was not ready to pose.
She took out of her bag several combing devices, a selection of make-up gunk and a small mirror. ‘I will have to look at this photo for the next few years’ she said as if offering a defence.
Having satisfied her need to prune she positioned herself and the picture was taken. Now it was my turn and I readied myself to get it over with as quick as I could. ‘Are you not going to comb your hair’ said my bride with a mixture of care and disappointment. ‘Do you think I need to’ I replied. She handed me a comb without a word as if an answer to my question was not necessary. Hair suitably rearranged I sat waiting for the flash to go off trying to neither smile not grimace; such that I ended up looking like I was slightly constipated.
We waited for our photos with a mixture of fear and fun knowing that they would look both awful to us and amusing to anyone else who viewed them.
‘I am going to get mine done again’ said my wife threatening to spend another four pound. I convinced her that there was no point in redoing the sitting as it was unlikely that anyone would see the finished result due to the fact that she never drives fast enough for the police to be interested in stopping her for a chat.
I understand her concern because I know as well as the rest of the population that the machines are designed to show every blemish and wrinkle so that no feature will escape the glare of the flash lighting.
I also think that we have been spoilt by the computer technology available to us meaning that we can touch up our snaps in a way that was once only available to top fashion photographers. I have enjoyed the fact that I can remove the odd blemish and wrinkle without resorting to plastic surgery.
I am not sure about the morality, however, of airbrushing your children’s photographs to make them look prettier. I once had a colleague who edited one such picture so that his son’s ears didn’t look to be so sticky out. I can’t imagine it would give you much confidence in later life to know that your dad thought you were so ugly that he had to resort to such measures.
Anyway no such luxuries with a photo booth so were left to make the best of a bad lot.
When we arrived home I made the comment that we could use one of the photographs to renew our passports, thereby saving money. My wife would have none of it insisting that she was unwilling to travel around the world having to show people this sub standard image.
‘I suppose it is only four pounds’ I thought as she went off to make a phone call. She returned a few moments later looking happier and declaring that it was all sorted for the passport photograph as she had booked a hair appointment for the following week and would feel more confident about the resultant picture after that.
I looked at my photograph and then looked in the mirror noticing that the half smile-half grimace facial expression was now a permanent feature.