The most curious picture in a valid passport

Curious picture valid passport
Until 1915, passports didn’t include photographs, and even in the initial stages of passport photos, there were no specific regulations regarding the photo’s content. The main requirement was that the photo fit on the passport page. During that era, we could come across rather peculiar passport photos, featuring individuals posing with their dogs, seated on park benches, or even atop horses.

I have a deep appreciation for these vintage passport photos and occasionally obtain old passports solely due to the intriguing images they contain. However, those times have long passed, and today, our passport photos adhere to strict standardization.

Meet Michael Afanasyev Curious picture valid passport

Well, Michael is the man with a colander on his head in his current and valid Israeli passport, issued in 2016. Yes, you read correctly – a passport photo with a colander on his head!

Firstly, I thought this story in an Israeli newspaper was a joke or even “Fake News” but I wrote to Michael, and he answered me and confirmed the most unusual story. What happened?

Tom: “Michael, by random, I found your passport with the colander picture. I am a passport historian that would like to know if you indeed got an Israeli passport with a colander passport picture. Thank you. Tom”

Michael: “I did indeed get an Israeli passport with a colander. Apparently, a Dutch guy got a passport with a colander as well, although the authorities here have stopped the practice since. To my knowledge, no other passports with colanders have been issued so far.” Here is the link to the story. Curious picture valid passport

Tom: “Thank you, Michael. They granted you this privilege because you applied religious reasons? And is this a real (serious) thing for you, or was it a fun activity?”

Religious Aspect

Michael: “I indeed asserted that I am a believer in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and that the Colander is our religious headgear. It is serious, and a lot of fun, too. The thing is – unlike the Netherlands, for example, Israel does not have a set of rules for headgear on passport photos. So if they would refuse me, they’d have to make a set of rules, and that would be rather difficult. In Israel many men wear Jewish Kipa, religious women, both Jewish and Muslim wear head scarfs, and some Orthodox Jewish women shave their heads and wear wigs. I imagine designing a set of rules that would allow them to wear whatever they wear and exclude my colander would be too difficult.”

Tom: “What experience did you make by showing your “holy colander headgear”-passport? Curious picture valid passport

Michael: “I have a Dutch passport (without a colander yet), and I only use my Israeli passport when traveling to Israel. A few months ago, I traveled there for the first time. At the customs, I had my colander with me, although I admit I was not wearing it. Customs is a hassle, and in Israel can get tricky even without colanders, and I did not wish to make anyone more nervous than normal.

Border Experience

Having presented my passport, I was met with a blank stare, then surprise, then curiosity. The customs official simply asked, “why”? And I briefly explained (FSM, colander, religion). His reply was, “I don’t know how you pulled this off, but as long as you’re recognizable, I’m fine with it.” To which I replied, “That was my point exactly!” and went through. On the return trip, coming out of the country, my passport made the customs lady chuckle, and she shared it with her colleague. I explained that it was a religious thing, and was allowed through without any trouble.”

“How I got the passport is quite interesting as well, I think. The State of Israel keeps a statistical record of the citizen’s religion. I asked to change my record to “Pastafarian,” and applied for a passport with a colander. Initially denied, I persisted and was informed the matter would be reviewed. If allowed to register as “Pastafarian,” I can wear a colander in the photo.. Curious picture valid passport

The Passport Picture

Getting the picture was quite a hassle as well, as I was kicked out of a Photoshop, cursed, and told never to come back, but that’s beside the point. I said that the passport has no relation to the statistical record, but was told to wait nevertheless. Much to my surprise, the answer was that the colander passport was OK, but the registration was not.”

Tom: “Thank you for the interview, Michael. You definitely will have your place in modern passport history with this outstanding passport photo.”

Curious picture valid passport - passport Michael Afanasyev
Copyright Michael Afanasyev

Doctor Spaghetti, is the website of Michael Afanasyev, where you can read more about him and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


100 Years Passport Photo


FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...