Baby, Say 'Cheese' for the State Department
You're never too young to travel. But first, you have to learn to sit all by yourself.
That was the lesson my sister recently learned when she brought Kate, then five weeks old, to have her passport photo snapped.
Lisa, her husband and itty-bitty Kate are traveling to Italy in May, and the State Department requires passports for every American, including those who've been alive for less time than the shelf life of milk. So, Lisa, Kate and my parents ventured off to a AAA office in Masachusetts for the shoot.
Presented with a stool and a child too young to hold up her own noggin', my sister asked if she could sit with Kate or kneel down and hold her on the side or from the front, ducking out of view. The agency's photographer told my sister that she could not appear in the photo holding up her daughter. It had to be only Kate, despite her floppy head, noodle legs and slumping posture. No second-party body parts allowed. In addition, the employee said the child must sit on the stool, which was adjusted to a certain height that made her head level with the white screen backdrop. (When I contacted AAA Mid-Atlantic, spokesman John Townsend said the Washington office does take photos of newborns and that no parents have ever returned with photos rejected by the State Department.)
To be sure, the State Department writes on its Web site: "The minor child must be the only subject in the photo. Nothing used to support the minor child, whether by mechanical or human means, should be in the camera''s frame."
That ruled out puppet wires and scaffolding. Oh well.
The AAA photog directed my family to the Walgreens next door. There, a kid pulled down a screen, hiding a bank of vending machines, and told Lisa that she could hold up Kate -- minus the stool but add in a thumb. In the interim, a call was made to the post office where Lisa and Andrew were going to process the passport. The P.O. employee said a stray finger would be okay because, "How else are you going to get a picture of a newborn without someone holding her."
When I asked Cyril M. Ferenchak, a State Department regional affairs officer, for his suggestions on photographing a newborn, he offered up the "School Solution." "Most photographers should be able to position the child and take a picture that does not include the arms of a parent holding the baby in a sitting position," he said by e-mail, "Check with a photo shop or the photo counter at some of these drug stores to find out exactly how they do it since they do it all the time. They probably have some proven simple methods."
In a few weeks, we will know if Kate's picture made it onto a passport, or if my sister has to start looking around for a babysitter for May.
By Andrea Sachs |
February 21, 2008; 7:35 AM ET
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