For our safety, passport photos have highly stringent requirements. You must be facing the camera head-on. The background needs to be clear, without shadow. You can’t have anything in your hair. You are not allowed to wear glasses . Your head must take up 70% – 80% of the frame. And of course don’t even think about smiling.

These rules are good for identification, but lousy for self-expression. Which is why, as he sat in the chair getting his own passport photo taken, professional photographer Max Siedentopf began toying with the idea of tricking the medium.

The London-based visual artist recruited a cast of friends and strangers to sit for passport photos. Above the shoulders the participants are straight-faced and rigid, yet below they are balancing full wine glasses along their arms, taped to a wall, or even on fire. The humorous series explores the fringes of mundane government tasks, while imbuing some personality in the utterly quotidian.

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Max Siedentopf: Passport Photos

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