When looking back through old photos, have you ever wondered why subjects rarely smiled, even if the portrait was of an exciting event like a wedding? If so, a new video from Vox will help address your questions.
In the three and a half minute, Vox explains four reasons subjects decided to forgo the ‘cheese’ and stand more stoic than we’re used to seeing.
The first reason Vox covers is the fact that early cameras systems needed a lot of light to expose the image. Thus, long exposure times were needed and it is far easier to stand with a straight face for a few minutes than it is with a smile.
The second reason was due to the inspiration taken from paintings. That is, it was believed portraits were to be a ‘frozen’ moment of oneself. And for some reason they thought you could only do so without a smile.
The third reason cited involves the superstition that portraits should be captured with the highest sincerity in order to preserve the person captured for future generations. Because nothing says ‘look at your great great great grandma, children’ like a stone cold stoic portrait.
The fourth is a bit of a longshot, with Vox stating it’s said to be that during the Victorian and Edwardian era, smiling in a portrait was something done only by ‘idiots’. If only they knew duck faces were yet to come.
Remember to smile next time you’re the subject of a portrait. We promise you won’t look like an ‘idiot’—at least no more so than we do.
[via Imaging Resource]