I'm not much given to personal vanity, but a traumatic passport photo has unmasked a hidden streak of narcissism. It made me think about how in this digital age, where private, public and celebrated are on a compressed continuum, we all exercise control over our image. We painstakingly construct online personas (I'm doing it now) and make our happy snaps the avatars onto which we project our constructed selves. We press our social intercourse between the leaves of a book of faces.

It also made me think about a line I gleaned from somebody else's online persona, that the self has replaced the soul in modern culture. This goes beyond social media. It's about the way the good life has come to mean organic food, exercise and calorie counting, renewable energy, work-life balance, self-help in its manifold forms. The good life used to be much more to do with the ground of being than the mechanics of living. And almost nothing to do with faces.

So, as photos become the avatars of our constructed selves, our constructed selves become the avatars of our neglected souls: the projection of who we would like to be onto what we think the world demands of us. A bad passport photo becomes far more traumatic than it would be if I accepted that it was not, nor was ever meant to be, a window on my soul.