Photoshopped

The last time I had to get my picture taken for passport -sized photos, the stars were aligned. I was having a good hair day, and my skin was experiencing a blessed patch of luminescence. Carpe diem, as they say, and I got a hundred or so copies made, planning to make them last through the decade.

Alas, this being India, where every new application for anything requires two passport-sized photos, I ran out last week. Argh! My supply of the glamour shot, so rare in this genre of photography, gone dry. I was aghast. Desperately, I searched for the photographer’s number to order more, to no avail. I cursed myself for not framing his business card and storing it safely with the gods.

Dispirited, I dragged myself to a photo studio to get the replacement taken. The photographer, being a jovial type, enthusiastically shared the three or four versions of me he had clicked. Oh, what a far cry they were from their predecessor! All of them looked like a study in capturing a woman gone mad, or on the verge of. Let’s just leave it at that.

Glumly, I picked one randomly, they were all equally bad. The photographer tried to give reassure me, but even his words of encouragement faltered halfway. He swallowed, giving a wobbly smile. We both knew he had dud material.

Imagine my surprise when I picked up the printed photos the next day. Out-of-place hair wisps gone, my hair looked properly styled and arranged, falling lightly on my shoulders (is it that long? I never realized). My skin was clear and glowing, unblemished by any lines, spots or discoloration. My eyes were bright, lips soft and pink. I looked up at him, he grinned back. A new glamour shot!

In that same instant, it hit me. I’d been photoshopped. My mouth fell open, as I stared at the smooth face in the picture. It was me, no doubt, but it wasn’t.

A passport photo, perhaps an innocuous application of Photoshop. But I also know how far it goes, distorting what women look like, creating impossible standards of beauty that ravage the self-esteem of many young girls and women. Even my own photo is probably not so harmless. Every time I look in the mirror, my imperfections will now be amplified, looking bigger, deeper, wider.

I think I prefer the woman looking mad. She’s closer to reality.

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About Archana

I'm Indian and Canadian, and many other countries in between. I read comics every morning and believe the world could do with slowing down.
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2 Responses to Photoshopped

  1. Anne Louise says:

    loved reading this! passport photography is such a curious little genre of portraiture, and the idea that we don’t look like ourselves in them – or that they look “like a study in capturing a woman gone mad” at least, goes all the way back to when passport photographs were made mandatory as they helped change how normal people thought of identity and portraits (before that only crooks had such pictures taken). Anyways! You’re so right that there’s something very disconcerting about the photoshopping of a passport photograph. What to do, what to think…

    • Archana says:

      Thank you, Anne Louise. Very interesting to know the genesis of passport photos. It almost defeats the purpose that most of us look like convicts in our driving license and passports.

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