Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Encounters with my better halves

We're thinking of a visit to Quebec next summer and so I've begun the process of renewing my passport. The first step was the photo. Luckily my local camera shop performs this service and I was able to get it done there in less than five minutes. Here I am:

The thing you have to keep in mind about this photo is that it was a Saturday and I'd just taken my kids swimming at the Y so my hair was all chlorinated and maybe slightly ionized.

But to be honest this isn't too much different from my normal appearance. I decided during one of my first acid trips a long time ago that I was done caring how I looked, and that has proven to be one of the best decisions of my life. A real time saver.

It turns out there is one person on the planet who does care what I look like, and she reminds me of this fact fairly often. "You need to get that retaken," said Tab the first time I showed her the photo. She was worried that it would create hassles. "You look like a terrorist," she said. "Just like that Sheikh Mohammed guy. You know airport security is no joke." My wife had a point. To an authority figure, the photo might be a red flag. Maybe in this case my lack of grooming would not be a time saver.

On the other hand wouldn't security be more concerned with me than my photo? What if I showed up with chlorine hair but my photo showed me cleancut? Wouldn't that be a red flag? At least this way I was being honest with them, right? Isn't that what they like? She said she'd put it to a vote. We'd show the photo to my extended family and ask their advice. So that's where we're at now, waiting.

In the meantime I decided to test my new portrait on My Heritage, a site which tells you which celebrities you resemble. I thought my photo would be perfect for this, since I know that many people in show business go to great lengths to style their hair in a way that says they're too cool to worry about it. Tell the border agents that bedhead is totally in, baby!

According to My Heritage, the celebrity I most resemble is John Travolta. Travolta?! I think there may have been a bug in the program. I mean, come on. Travolta? There isn't a hair out of place on his head.

To my eye, a better match would be Gene Simmons or 50 Cent. Here, see for yourself. And, uh, you can call me Fitty B if you want from now on.

In the photography world the obvious precursor to these morphs is Nancy Burson's work in the early 80s combining faces. Not only did Burson create many powerful images but she was instrumental in developing the software behind it all. I wouldn't be surprised if the MyHeritage program was based on her code.

Nancy Burson, 1982

Isn't it amazing how far we've come? Back then you had to spend months coding in some obscure digital language, probably using a computer the size of a phone booth, to develop a grainy b/w morph. Now the whole process is accessible to anyone who spends five minutes on a website. A real time saver.


Chris said...

The passport office refused my passport photo because I had a funny expression. That funny expression was a smile.

Luckily for everyone, but mostly for the passport office, they're happy to take a new photograph for you at the office for a nominal fee. That certainly removed the smile from my face.

Anonymous said...

am I the only one who thinks you look like Winogrand??