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Passport Photo: No Smiles, No Frowns, No Upside Down Crowns

January 8th, 2010 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, have we really arrived at a day when it is no longer permissible to smile?

I downloaded the instructions for applying for a Canadian passport. I’m not sure but I think I have to give them my first born son, a pound of flesh (they get to choose what part of my anatomy it comes from) and two first round draft picks. Even then they can slam the door in my face if in my nervous state I pass wind at an inopportune moment.

But the thing that really has me shaking my head is the rigid regulations concerning the passport photo. I understand the need for tight security in this post 911 society. In the past week we’ve been reminded yet again that terrorism is ever present.

But I’m having difficulty understanding how some of the passport photo specifications factor into the security equation. Case in point – a direct quote:

The length from the chin to the crown (natural top of the head) must be between 31 mm and 36 mm (1-1/4” x 1-7/16”). That equates to 3/16” – a pretty narrow margin for error.

But hold on. Where exactly does my “crown” legally start and finish? Can I contest this requirement in court based on human rights legislation if I have an unusually long face that won’t reproduce within these parameters? Can I wear a crown on my “crown” when I have the photo taken? And what if I have a double chin? Does the measurement begin from the first chin or the second one?

All joking aside, it disturbs me that we are expressly forbidden from smiling or frowning in the passport photo. I fail to comprehend how smiling would enable a terrorist to avoid detection.

There are far too many happenings in life in this day and age that can wipe a smile off our faces. Some days we have to go looking for a reason to smile. When we arrive at the day when it is legally forbidden to smile, it’s time to slam on the brakes and rethink the rules of the game.

Being ordered not to smile on pain of refusal of our rights is, in my books, a metaphor for the victory of terrorism for that is the day we roll over and concede once and for all that they are calling the shots.

Not smiling when I get my passport photo taken won’t be an issue for me. I’m one of those people who have difficulty smiling on cue for the camera at the best of times. But the fact that I am expressly forbidden from doing so might just make me frown – and then I’ll really be screwed.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel”. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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