Today I had to do something I’ve been dreading — I had to get a passport photo taken. It’s not for a passport — I get to keep that bad photo for another four years — it’s for a Chinese visa. They don’t put a photo on the visa, so I can’t figure out why they need a passport photo, but I know better than to show up at the consulate without all the necessary items, so I went in search of a place that would take my picture this morning. I ended up at a little shop that sells mainly magazines and cigarettes, at least that’s what everyone in line around me was buying. The guy said four photos are £5, which sounded like a great deal, so I went for it. I put extra effort into doing my hair and makeup this morning just for this stupid photo. I was ready. I stood in front of the white screen and gave a half smile. Since it was digital, the guy showed me the photo. It was bad. I politely asked him to take another. He did. It was worse. But at this point customers were lining up for their newspapers and cigarettes, so I told him it was fine, because, honestly, we would have been there all day if I wanted a good photo.
That’s because I’m photogenically challenged. Majority of photos of me turn out bad. Not “OMG I look so bad, but really I look good and I’m just fishing for compliments” bad, more “Dear god how is it even possible to make that face?” bad. It’s a condition I’ve been struggling with for most of my life. I like to think I’m not bad looking, I may even be above average looking, but something happens with the click of the shutter that makes it all go to hell. To cope with this disorder I invented the Renee Face several years ago (see here). I figured if I was going to look stupid, I might as well look stupid on purpose. But I can’t make the Renee Face in a passport photo, or at least I’m too embarrassed to try (although Clark Griswold got away with it), so I had to attempt a closed-mouth smile (I can’t teeth-show smile properly, another disorder of mine) and ended up with what looks like a mug shot for meth use — even with my nice hair and makeup. So tomorrow I will take my visa application, passport and photo to the Chinese consulate and hope that they do not discriminate against the unphotogenic.