Passport photos are a bore at the best of times. Forced into a small rectangular box or stood in front of a your local chemist, who is also trained to snap a headshot based on several criteria, always inevitably ends in a photo of yourself you’re too embarrassed to show anyone. A recent renewal of his passport – and the accompanying photo he was forced to take – somehow got Max Siedentopf thinking though. “While sitting in front of the camera and keeping a straight face, I was wondering how something so dull could be ‘tricked’ to inject some more excitement into the whole process of passport photography,” he tells It’s Nice That.
The result is a new body of work from the former One to Watch titled Passport Photos (of course), which adheres to the rules of this mundane sector of photography to a T, but which tests all the things you could be doing outside of that tiny frame. A series of portraits, each is a diptych showing a headshot that follows the rules and a wide shot deputing a chaotic, bizarre and comical scene. We’re talking disasters with fire extinguishers, splits between two chairs, someone actually taped to the wall and fire – lots of it.
Official guidelines dictate that in passport photos the subject must face the camera straight on, have a clear background without any shadows on it, have their hair away from their face, no glare on glasses, and no smile. “It seems almost impossible for any kind of self-expression,” Max adds. The subjects Max has worked with, therefore, are a mix of friends and strangers – all of whom have had their personality and character (more than) expressed in the series. “Seeing as everyone needs their passport photo taken, I wanted to work with all kinds of fun characters,” he continues.
On how he fabricated the ludicrous situations, Max explains: “I spent the weeks before coming up with all the different scenarios and then paired those up with all the different characters, always trying to match it in ways that felt a bit uncomfortable. The same went for the scenarios, you start with a mundane and neutral portrait and then think of all the different things that could happen all around that person in that moment. Anything goes, but the more surprising, the better of course.”
As you’d expect, Max states the diptych in which fire rages in front of a hilariously-surprised looking man as his favourite from the series. “The whole thing didn’t quite end up as planned and unexpectedly resulted in a three metre-high flame that easily could’ve burned down the entire studio. I’m very happy that the guy in the photo (the owner of the studio) was able to keep a semi-serious face,” Max tells us.
To enjoy the series in all its glory, head over to Max’s Instagram!
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