We’ve all seen photos from the 19th and early 20th century. And what do they all have in common? That’s right, everyone in them looks as miserable as sin.
How do you react when you see these photos and what is the first thing you notice? It’s not the clothes or the background is it? No, it’s the expressions on their faces. I’ve been guilty of thinking to myself, ‘good lord, they look like they’d suck the fun out of anything’.
They were probably really lovely people. But, let’s be honest, it’s nigh-on impossible to warm to them with their lack of smiles.
The truth is that back then photographic technology wasn’t a thing. People having their pic-ture taken had to endure long exposure times, which meant staying as still as possible for quite some time or risk looking blurry. It’s easier to hold a neutral expression than to force a smile.
Early photos were also influenced by portrait paintings which predominantly featured neutral expressions and the fact that Victorian and Edwardian culture ‘frowned on’ (see what I did there) smiling. For example, Mark Twain had legendary humour and poignant satire, yet you wouldn’t guess that from his photos.