When I mention the most boring, uninspiring type of images, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Passport photos, of course. But Namibian-German visual artist Max Siedentopf found his inspiration in them and he managed to turn them the other way around. In his project Passport Photos, these images are anything but boring! They’re amusing, quirky and hilarious, and unlike the actual passport photos, they’ll put a big smile on your face.
We’ve all been photographed for a passport, and we know what it looks like. “Heavily restricted and regulated, the official passport photo requirements include that the subject needs to face the camera straight on, needs a clear background without shadow, no fashion covering hair, no glare on glasses, no smile,” Max explains. Of course, a photo regulated this way leaves no room for any kind of self-expression. Or does it?
Max’s project challenges these strict, official rules. His subjects aren’t sitting still in a dull booth, trying to stay perfectly still and without any facial expression. Instead, Max tests all the things a person could be doing while taking an official document photo.
As a result, Max created a series of “traditional” passport photos but he added behind-the-scenes shots alongside them. His subjects are “dressed” in toilet paper, garbage bags, or oversized clothes. Most of them are placed in the weirdest situations you can imagine. The wider context is visible in the BTS shots, while the subjects are being all serious in the cropped “passport photo.”
When I first saw this project, some of these images made me laugh out loud like a lunatic. I admire Max for all these weird situations he came up with, but I also admire his models for keeping the straight face while posing. I bet it was quite a challenge! Check out more fantastic Passport Photos and read more about Max below.
Max grew up in Windhoek, Namibia and continued to work in Berlin, Los Angeles, and Amsterdam. He is currently based in London. He is a visual artist, publisher, director at Riffraff, co-founder of Ordinary Magazine, and creative director and partner of Kesselskramer.