I chose to look into the history of the passport photo for the reason of it being a form of formal identity just by a single image of yourself. The passport photo has many different regulations and rules, but this has not always been the case. It is a type of portrait photography and looking into this may broaden my knowledge on the subject. “Although photography had been around for more than half a century, its adoption seems to have caught the authorities by surprise,” says Martin Lloyd, author of The Passport: The History of Man’s Most Travelled Document. “They made no rules on how to pose for a picture. They were simply asked to send one in. So they did.” The passport, the first known English version of which dates back to the early 15th Century, had to be signed by the foreign secretary until 1857 and featured a printed signature afterwards. A further change came in 1920, following a decision by the League of Nations to standardise passports. The blue cardboard-covered British booklet passport, the last of which expired in 2003, came into being. This was designed to prevent excessive folding of the single-sheet version, known to damage enamelled photographs. By 1926, when the second version of the booklet passport was introduced, the requirement was for two duplicate, unmounted photographs printed on thin paper, “full face” showing, with no hats worn, which remains the norm. Pictures had to be a certain size to fit the box provided. This meant an end to the early free-for-all. In 1941, the government specified the photograph size in inches, rather than just “small”. Coin-operated photo booths, with origins as far back as the 1880s, came into wider usage in the 1950s, the same time as mass overseas tourism began, further homogenising passports. “The very precise requirements of the Passport Office mean that passport photos are more standardised than they have ever been since 1915,” says Michael Pritchard, director-general of the Royal Photographic Society. “No smiling, straight-on and white backgrounds don’t provide the flattering images of the traditional High Street photographer and we’ve probably lost something, which is a shame, especially as we all have to live with that image for 10 years.” Smiling was banned in 2004, along with long fringes and dummies in babies’ mouths. Today, passports, which come in the standard burgundy covers used within the European Union, must include colour photographs measuring 45mm by 35mm. There are more than 20 separate stipulations. Part of the reason is the introduction of biometrics – using the distances between facial features for more reliable identification – in 2006. There is slightly more leeway for children, who have had to have passports separate from their parents since 1998. They can still smile, not having to adopt a “neutral” expression. Even so, it’s a long way from the freedoms of 100 years ago.