The History of Passport Photography

How did the practice of passport photography become what it is today? How was it evolved, or

In late 1914, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan issued an order requiring two unmounted photographs (no larger than three inches by three inches) to be submitted with passport applications – one was required to be attached to the application, while the second was intended to be put on the passport.

Citizens who had been issued passports without photographs were required to have a photograph added, so as to meet the changing governmental requirements. Photographs were introduced at this time to make the passport a more accurate personal identification document.

This change, which was implemented with the idea of use during wartime, the passport photo brought with it an increased concern to make the document more secure. Less than a month after adding this photograph requirement to passports, the U.S. State Department responded to this new practice with methods to ensure that the correct photograph was connected to the correct document. Workers at local courthouses were instructed to attach photographs to the application with a notable seal in order to avoid subsequent substitution of the photograph prior to obtaining a passport.

Soon thereafter, officials stamped their seal of their office over the top left corner of the photograph when they attached it to the passport document, instead of the initial practice of simply pasting it. This was a new, concerted effort to secure and legitimize the passport as a secure and reliable form of identification.

The State Department also clarified its policy to ensure that all passports carried a photograph of the passport bearer. The secretary of state decided that passport applicants had to provide a photograph regardless of religious beliefs (in response to an applicant intending to travel abroad as a missionary, who had quoted Exodus against the concept of such a method of photography). At the decade’s close, the State Department issued a requirement that even infants had to have a photograph on a passport document. Next, increasingly specific requirements arose: a light-colored background, thin paper, and dimensions between 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches and 3 inches by 3 inches.

As an added measure of security, the U.S. State Department began to use a machine that perforated a legend across the lower part of the photograph after it was attached to a passport. This made it more troublesome for someone to seamlessly remove the photograph, and it was considered to be more difficult to replicate than the original rubber stamp.

The passport photograph was considered to be an entirely truthful image that could be used to reliably link a person to a passport and thus accurately establish and individual’s identity. The promise to deliver accurate identification was met by the ever-evolving camera, which is still serving It’s same function, today!

For all of your passport photo needs in this modern age, be sure to find us at ePassportPhoto to get quick guidance from our representatives!