Why People Never Smiled In Old Photos ?

Have you ever thought that why old photos have such serious faces ? Why people in old photos seems to be sedate and quite suspicious even in some auspicious occasions?!

Well ! That’s probably not be a discussing matter for you, but this thing definitely have some technical reasons to tell and you should know about that.

The first photographs were taken in the late 1820s, and the new medium developed throughout the rest of the century as a practical tool, artistic form and social activity. But, even though there were a few smiles to be found in the early years of photography, it took until the 1920s and ’30s for smiles to start becoming the standard expression in photographs.

So why was that the case, and what changed?

One possibility is dental. Some dismiss the idea that bad teeth could have been a possible cause for early photography’s close-lipped images, since that was a common condition and wouldn’t have necessarily been noteworthy at the time. But Angus Trumble, the director of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Australia, and author of A Brief History of the Smile, disagrees. He points to the professionalization of dental health as one factor leading to the rise of smiles, arguing that just because bad teeth were normal didn’t mean they were desirable. “People had lousy teeth, if they had teeth at all, which militated against opening your mouth in social settings,” he says.


Another common explanation for the lack of smiles in 19th century photographs is that, because it took so long to capture a photograph back then, people in pictures couldn’t hold a smile for long enough. “Some of that is true,” says Todd Gustavson, technology curator at the George Eastman Museum. “If you look at the early processes where you did have a long exposure time, you’re going to pick a pose that’s comfortable.” But he says that technology has been overplayed as the limiting factor. By the 1850s and ’60s it was possible in the right conditions to take photographs with only a few seconds of exposure time, and in the decades that followed shorter exposures became even more widely available. That means the technology needed to capture fleeting expressions like a genuine smile was available long before such a look became common.

But that’s only part of the story — and was really only a huge factor in the very early days of photography. As George Eastman House curator Todd Gustavson told me when I was researching the history of the selfie, exposure times had gotten a lot shorter by 1900 with the introduction of the Brownie and other cameras. These cameras were still slow by today’s standards, but not so slow that it was impossible to smile.

Yet smiles were still uncommon in the early part of the century. That suggests there were also cultural reasons people didn’t smile in old pictures. Any general cultural theories involve a few leaps of faith — but these try to explain why old photos look so sad.

Today, photography is a means of recording our lives as they’re lived. But in the early days of the art, it was indebted to a tradition of portraiture in painting. A photograph was a frozen presentation of a person, not a moment in time. Even the models thought so.

In 1894, the Photographic Journal of America interviewed a model named Elmer Ellsworth Masterman. He had an unusual gig — he professionally modeled as Jesus Christ for paintings and photographs. He also didn’t see the distinction between the two art forms. “What is the difference between posing for a photograph and posing for a painting?” he asked.

The photographic tradition of portraiture began in part because of the technological limitations of cameras that had to take pictures slowly. But even once cameras improved, it was difficult to imagine photography as a unique art with its own aesthetics. Even when it was easier to take pictures quickly, cameras still represented an ideal of life, not a slice of it. That meant no smiling.

Today, photography is a means of recording our lives as they’re lived. But in the early days of the art, it was indebted to a tradition of portraiture in painting. A photograph was a frozen presentation of a person, not a moment in time. Even the models thought so.

The norms of spontaneous, amateur photography began to bleed into more formal photography, says Trumble, as people developed new expectations about how they wanted to be seen. As the century wore on, photography and painting began to interact, each trying to take advantage of the other medium’s benefits. Painters would try to emulate the clarity and spontaneity of photos, and photographers would attempt to evoke the artistry of fine painting. That went for smiles too, Trumble says, as “people begin to smile in effervescent ways” in painted portraits during in the Edwardian period, about 1895-1914, after the same change took place in photography.

By World War II, the shift in photographic norms was pretty much complete.

A study of high school yearbook photos in the U.S. taken from 1905 to 2005 told a similar story of the changing default expression. The researchers averaged images of men and women by decade, and though it was a specific sample, they found that average lip curvature increased over time and also that women led the way to toothy grins, on average smiling more than men did in any given decade.



Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker