Punch-A-Day

A daily excerpt from a a historical edition of Punch – the greatest satirical magazine in history

Category: Photography

A solution to the passport photo problem

PASSPORTS IMPROVED.

There was a talk of passports being issued with photographic portraits. Men may not object to this plan, as they do not care so much for a little disfigurement, but we doubt strongly if ladies will ever give their countenances to it. It is well known that photographic portraits do not improve the beauty of any one. They give the features of the “human face divine,” but without the slightest touch of flattery. Worse than this, if there should be any little defect, the cruel metal does not trouble itself in the least to conceal it, but has the vulgarity to render it in all its staring obliquity or deformity. We have our fears, therefore, that this very unfashionable system of portrait painting will never suit the ladies. It goes upon the Antipodean theory of making the pretty faces appear ugly, and the ugly ones still uglier. We are confident that no lady who has any respect for herself, or her husband, will face such an ordeal. Some other plan must be invented by the police, or else there will be an end to all travelling on the part of our ladies.

Where is the woman who would care about going abroad, when she was liable to be stopped at every minute, and forced to produce, for the amusement of some coarse gensd’arme, an ugly photographic portrait of herself?

Hear, hear!

We propose, therefore, that the following system be adopted:—Let M. Baugniet, or some other artist as clever in taking portraits, be constantly in attendance at the passport office. He would strike off a likeness in a very short time—such a likeness as, delicately flattered, the lady herself would take a positive pleasure in producing every time she was asked for it. It would be an elegant work of art; which the lady would like, probably, to preserve by her, and the possession of which would also materially enhance the pleasures of travelling. All the expenses to be paid, of course, by the State—for it would be a most ungracious action to ask a lady to pay for her own portrait—or else to be defrayed by the railways, or steam-packets, of the country which the fair traveller intended to visit. The companies would be amply repaid by the influx of passengers, besides having the enviable privilege of claiming copies of all their female visitors. An ample profit, even, might be realized by selling the lithographs, for a lady might be allowed to claim as many copies of her likeness as she pleased, upon the understanding that all copies, beyond the one which was given to her for the necessary police purposes of travelling, were to be paid for. A large revenue might be derived from this branch of the passport system, for what lady would hesitate to take a hundred copies of herself, if she was made extremely handsome?

(1853)

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Here marks the end of the Era of High Self Esteem

1867 Talbotype

Sarah Jane is lucky enough to be one of the first people ever to suffer from this. It’s 1867, and photography is still very much in its infancy. There were two main techniques; the Talbotype, pioneered by a Mr. Talbot, and a Daguerrotype, pioneered by a Monsieur Daguerre.

Talbot made the mistake of patenting his technique worldwide, so many opted for the “open source” Daguerrotyping process.

(June 1867)

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