No smiling, we’re French

2016-10-09 06:27
Passport. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Passport. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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A French man is fighting to overturn a ban on passport photos that show the person smiling, claiming the rule is keeping people depressed.

A citizen who French media are calling “Thierry” took up the case after his Mona Lisa-esque passport photo was rejected because it showed a “slightly ironic grimace that borders on a discreet smile”, according to Le Parisien.

The man, understood to be a 40-year-old civil servant, has accused the French state of “abuse of power”.

French passport rules, like those in the UK, state that “the subject must adopt a neutral expression and should not smile”.

The rule was brought in with the introduction of biometric passports that allow the features of a person’s face to be compared with those held in a database. A smile can make it difficult to verify a person’s identity.

Thierry’s lawyer, Romain Boulet, argues the law simply states that subjects must look at the camera, maintain a neutral expression and keep their mouths shut – with no mention of not smiling.

In his submission, Boulet referred to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, famous for its subject sporting an enigmatic half-smile.

“For more than 500 years, people have wondered if the Mona Lisa is smiling,” said the lawyer.

“That so many leading experts have failed to agree on this shows that it is not for the authorities to determine whether a smile is neutral or not.”

Allowing French people to smile on their passport photos would “give the French a friendly face” when they arrive at borders, Boulet said. – Sky News

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