"Passport pictures are notoriously unpleasant and unflattering,” the New York (NY) Times published in September 1930. A popular line appeared in an Associated Press story in June 1954:
“Columbia, S. C. (AP)—Passport applicants at the Federal Courthouse here are greeted by this sign: ‘If you look like your passport photograph, you need the trip.’”
American humorist Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) popularized the line in the title of her book, When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home (1991).
4 October 1930, Morning World-Herald (Omaha, NE), pg. 4, col. 4:
(New York Times.) (Published September 19, 1930.—ed.)
Passport pictures are notoriously unpleasant and unflattering. The mildest mannered man looks like a thug or gunman, and a brighteyed miss becomes a heavy featured half-wit. Few travelers ever feel anything but a pang of horrid surprise almost disbelief, upon first looking at the photograph which is to identify them in a foreign country.
The distortion of passport photography is illustrated by the sage reply sent by the editor of a woman’s page to a love-sick damsel who asked how she might know if her sweetheart were really true to her. The answer was: “Send him your passport picture, and if he withstands that shock, you can depend upon it he loves you.”
16 December 1935, Brandon (Manitoba) Daily Sun, pg. 4, col. 4:
Cheerful wife to seasick husband—Never mind, dear; you’re beginning to look really like your passport photo.
29 May 1937, Brandon (Manitoba) Daily Sun, “Sun Gleams,” pg. 7, col. 3:
In London you can get a portrait taken by a distorting lens that makes you look like your passport picture.
20 February 1942, Charleston (WV) Gazette, “Bearing Down On The News” by Arthur “Bugs” Baer, pg. 6, col. 6:
The physical requirements have been let down a trifle. You don’t have to look like your passport picture any more.
6 July 1953, Bradford (PA) Era, “Round the Square,” pg. 1, col. 1:
CUTE QUIPS: With a credit line to Maurice Franks and “Partners Magazine,” we present these for a chuckle or two:
“Cheer up, chum—you’re beginning to look like your passport picture.”
18 June 1954, Morning World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Picture Story,” pg. 1, col. 3:
Columbia, S. C. (AP)—Passport applicants at the Federal Courthouse here are greeted by this sign: “If you look like your passport photograph, you need the trip.”
30 July 1957, Aberdeen (SD) American-News, “Earl Wilson’s New York,” pg. 4, col. 5:
WISH I’D SAID THAT: “If you look like your passport photo, you probably need the trip.”
British Literary Traveling Between the Wars
By Paul Fussell
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
Twenty years later a cartoon in the New York Times for Feb. 26, 1978, depicts a man at the rail of a liner (it must be a cruise ship merely, by this time) with a woman looking ill. He: “Are you O.K., Sylvia? Suddenly you look like your passport photo.”
OCLC WorldCat record
When you look like your passport photo, it’s time to go home
Author: Erma Bombeck
Publisher: New York, NY : HarperCollins, ©1991.
Edition/Format: Print book : Biography : English : 1st ed
The author tells of her travel experiences around the world, addressing the questions of travelers everywhere.
20,000 Quips & Quotes
By Evan Esar
New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books
If you look like your passport photograph, you need the trip.
The Mammoth Book of Comic Quotes
By Geoff Tibballs
London: Constable & Robinson Ltd.
Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.