Here’s a 3-minute video that explores why you almost never see portraits of smiling people from the early days of photography.
Vox boils everything down to a few main points:
1. Early Camera Technology
The super long exposure times in the early days made smiling hard. Keeping the same pose and smile for minutes at a time would be a challenge in endurance.
2. Influence from Paintings
Photography replaced the painted portrait when technology advanced, but many people still held onto the idea that a portrait is a super special “frozen” representation of a person.
3. Passage to Immortality
Since portraits were used as a way to “preserve” the living for future generations to look back on, they were approached with utmost seriousness.
4. The Culture of the Day
While it’s tough to prove, it’s believed that during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, smiling was looked down upon and considered to be something reserved for “idiots.”
P.S. You may remember that we shared an explanation of this same subject back in September 2013.