When did the smiles begin?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Dixon Cannon, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. Dixon Cannon

    Dixon Cannon My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    This topic came up in a conversation today; When you look at old photos, most people are NOT smiling. They seem to stare glumly at the camera as if it's their last photo before their execution. When in history did people actually start SMILING for pictures and putting on the inauthentic smile, as if the camera were a glee machine? Any thoughts on the origins of "smiling pics"? Hmmmm?

    -dixon cannon
     
  2. Tomasso

    Tomasso Incurably Addicted

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    I recall seeing photos of smiling faces on the repeal of Prohibition.
     
  3. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    That glum look was the result of having to sit stock still for the studio camera -- those big portrait cameras of the turn of the century era with the black drape over the photographer's head used glass plates coated with a very slow emulsion which required the subject to hold their pose and expression until the exposure was complete, a period of fifteen seconds or so. Try holding a smile that long without looking ridiculous and you'll see why they preferred a serious expression.

    It was common for photgraphers c. 1900 to tell their subjects to silently mouth the word "besom," and hold their mouths in the expression which ended the word. "Cheese" didn't come along till the days of reliable flash photography and faster exposure times, but people who'd grown up with the old-style methods still preferred a more serious expression. By the thirties, the more casual sort of portraits became popular.
     
  4. Then you have people who, for some reason, have to have that stupid s***-eating grin for driver's license, ID or passport photos. :doh:

    [​IMG]

    This well-known image of Monica Lewinski was from her government ID photo.
     
  5. Dragon Soldier

    Dragon Soldier One of the Regulars

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    I have no idea when, or how it happened... But I'm very glad it did.
    Can you imagine living in a world where every photo looks like the "before" image in a haemorrhoid advertisement?

    No thanks!
     
  6. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

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    Or the after in a laxative ad.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

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    Talking of the ridiculous, has anyone, outside the UK ever seen this comic genius?
    [video=youtube;rlYMID5qCdE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlYMID5qCdE[/video]
     
  8. I think very few people can smile without looking like a total goof. And for that very reason there's very few pics of me smiling. I just can't pull it off.
     
  9. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    Probably some time after the Kodak camera became popular. Say about 1915 - 1920? Snap shots became popular and a more casual look emerged. Before 1900 getting photographed was a serious, tedious and expensive business.
     
  10. CharleneC

    CharleneC Familiar Face

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    She smiled. Why is that so bad? Your description of it is certainly crude and far more bothersome than her photograph.
     
  11. Zombie_61

    Zombie_61 I'll Lock Up

    I'd rather look at photos like this all day long than ever have to see another duckface. :doh:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. JonnyO

    JonnyO A-List Customer

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    You'll find that a lot of group photos of fireman often have zero facial expressions as well. I believe this goes along with the stance of looking dignified and serious. I don't think anyone would want to see a group of smiling fireman after a house fire.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Dixon Cannon

    Dixon Cannon My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Great answers and insight. Dignified and serious describes it well. LizzieMaine, you seems to have the perfect response to every query! Thank you - now say "cheese"!


    -dixon cannon
     
  14. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    Another factor was the slow film in the old cameras required a lot of light. I know some of my older relatives thought that the only way to take a picture with their box Brownie was to have everyone staring into the sun's glare on the brightest day of the summer. Try holding your most fetching pose and smiling straight into the sun without moving for 5 minutes while Uncle Fred or Aunt Minnie fumbles with a drug store camera.
     
  15. Zombie_61

    Zombie_61 I'll Lock Up

  16. Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  17. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    That picture is cute, and not disturbing at all unless you think about it.
     
  18. Shangas

    Shangas I'll Lock Up

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    Lizzie is essentially right.

    Early photography (from the 1820s/30s up to the early 1900s) was extremely slow. The exposure times could last several minutes. Even in the 1880s-1900s period, it wasn't much faster.

    The film used required a lot of light and exposure to it, so it could take ages. And ages. And ages.

    In fact, it took so long, that to stop subjects falling asleep or moving out-of-pose during the exposure, early photographers used "posing stands". These are basically simple, adjustable metal frames. You set it up behind the subjects (say, a bride and groom having a wedding photo), and it would give them something to lean against, and hold their heads in the right positions, while the film did its stuff.

    [​IMG]

    Here, you can clearly see the posing stand, behind the guy sitting in the chair.

    An antique posing-stand:

    [​IMG]

    I'd say the whole smiling and "Cheese" thing didn't show up until well after the advent of fast, snapshot photography, probably after WWI.
     

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    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  19. bburtner@moran

    bburtner@moran Banned

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    Life was miserable then and now.Why smile.
     
  20. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    [​IMG]

    On the other hand, a full day of vigorous living and busting trusts is always worth a grin.
     

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