The real reason people in old photos are almost never smiling

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/07/11/the-real-reason-people-in-old.html

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Rather than flash a grin, they often opted to look thoughtful and serious

Um, yeah…

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And here I thought my self portraits were my camera’s fault.

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Must have been tough to hold that for 15 seconds.

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Right, so let me just pinch my nipple for this one.

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Or this…

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That’s the assistant’s job.

The correct application:

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Of course, she had her portrait painted the same way.

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Lack of cat video availability. That’s my theory as to why so few smiles, and I’m sticking to it.

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Rather than flash a grin, they often opted to look thoughtful and serious, a carry-over from the more formal conventions of painted portraiture

So we would have more people smiling in old photos if Ducreaux was the rule rather than the exception.

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This is my Grandmother sometime around 1905 ish
They Lived around Gary South Dakota

For Contrast the Great Grand Parents from my moms side of the family. About the same time in Eli MN

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Always thought the hand-in-waistcoat was the oddest of inexplicable gestures

[wikipedia Hand-in-waistcoat]

Most paintings and photographs show the right hand inserted into the waistcoat/jacket but some sitters appear with the left hand inserted. The pose was also often seen in mid-nineteenth century photography

The pose traces back to classical times — Aeschines, founder of a rhetoric school, suggested that speaking with an arm outside one’s toga was bad manners.

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A popular misconception.
It’s actually because (workable) photography was first developed in France.
And the French never smile in photographs. Because they don’t say cheese, they say fromage.

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French (Daguerre) invented one-offs. English (Fox-Talbot) invented the negative and photo-printing. Brits back then didn’t have much to smile at either, what with Victoria and Sherlock.

Meanwhile, as cameras got smaller and faster, camera fiends abounded, snapping street photos of unsuspecting innocents with whatever expression they emoted at the moment. Pundits advised strollers to carry pistols and shoot the fiends. Suspicion of possessing darkroom gear was grounds for eviction and persecution. Grim time for toggers.

One-off tintypes became the cheap version of daguerreotypes but their subjects usually kept straight faces because society. Portraits were fucking serious business then, especially if you had to pay for it yourself.

Also note that photography grew during a global depression circa 1870-1895. No, not much to smile about, for most.

I’ll admit to a morbid fascination. I’ve worked with emulsions, lenses, and filters, to emulate 1870-ish photography. The secret: actinic light, UV to blue on the EMF spectrum. Early emulsions just didn’t see green, yellow, orange, red, and IR. The world depression was lifting by the times those colors could be recorded. People smiled more.

The first faked photos date from around 1860. It’s a tradition.

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Yeah, I gotta say the contrast between those two pictures is a good representation of my impression of the residents of the respective states.

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Was that an ad for a restaurant? Because I’ll have whatever that dude’s having.

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…or even plus 15 and so on…

all of a thirtieth of a…

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For the record, she was amused.

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