In 2014, it was estimated that people uploaded 1.8 billion photos to social media daily. Photos are a way we express ourselves and share our memories. Beyond the internet, photos are also a way people ID us. A prime example is our drivers’ licenses.
I’m crying in my driver’s license photo. Hopefully, it’s as close as I get to a mugshot.
It started on New Year’s Eve of 2015, when I took the opportunity of short lines to get a new driver’s license. I had already been running errands before friends came by for dinner. It was a fiasco from the start because I had forgotten proof of my new address. However, after a promise that I’d be allowed to skip any lines if I came back with the correct documentation by the end of the day, I pushed through to make it happen.
Back at the DMV, a woman called me up to the front desk for an eye test. Then she directed me to another line for my photo. My mind spun out.
No I can’t. I need to keep my old photo. My old photo was a good one. I had a great smile. Those were my teeth. She doesn’t understand…
I got in line and the tears started welling up in my eyes. Nine days earlier I had undergone my third facial surgery to pull my lip down away from my nose and clear up some of the thick scar tissue that had formed along my jawline. Now, sitting in a plastic chair, awaiting my new driver’s license photo, I still had black stitches lining my face.
All I wanted was to keep my driver’s license photo.
I wrote the DMV:
I renewed my license today at the DMV in Boulder and asked to keep my picture…Last October I was hit by a driver while on my bike. He has had 17 serious traffic violations. I almost didn’t survive the ambulance ride to the hospital and due to the crash, I have severe damage to my face. The extensive scarring and damage has been extremely traumatizing. He still has his driver’s license even though he is a danger on the road, while I’m being told I can’t even keep the photo on my license.
It is important to me because I’m struggling with PTSD. I don’t want to have a constant reminder of the crash everytime I pull out my ID. Plus, I’m a girl – I lost my smile and my license photo was a good photo that always makes me happy. I feel like it is such a small thing to do for me and it would make a huge difference to me in the upcoming years as I heal emotionally.
Please help, Adelaide
The response I got was that photos are required by the REAL ID Act to be taken if a document is issued at an office or at the very least, every 16 years. When a customer renews a document in person a new photo and fingerprints are taken and the system is updated with the new information.
Had I renewed it online, I could have kept my photo, but I hadn’t known that until after I walked into the DMV. For months, I kept my old license tucked in my wallet’s clear ID slot on top, while my valid ID sat tucked underneath where I wouldn’t have to see it.
These days I rarely think of showing my ID. However, recently I was talking in depth about my book with a person who generously read it in advance. It brought me back to how I felt during December 2015 and January 2016. I was in the midst of a surgery, which brought about another significant change to my facial appearance, and mediation with the insurance companies. Smack dab in the middle of both of those stressful events was when I went to the DMV for the new license. As I recall that time period I feel very sad for my prior self. I don’t think I had ever signed an email with the words “please help” before that day, or since. It was a sign of my desperation.
Now, between all the forms of social media and phone cameras, we take photos without any thought. This is a reminder that photos hold a lot of power. In my book I discuss all of these events in much more depth and the power that other photos, like wedding pictures, had over me too.